A Patented Sun Light Invention
Each week we look at new patented inventions from around the United States. This invention comes from New Mexico. Way Better Patents looks for inventions in the green technology arena that use sustainable resources.
Lighting is the second largest use of electricity in residential buildings in the US, and the largest single use of electricity in commercial buildings, according to 2014 estimates by the Energy Information Administration. Significant advances in light sources such as light-emitting diode (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) have occurred in recent years. What if there was another source of light altogether? Inventor Jorge Hernandez has one answer.
Let The Sun Shine In
Lighting comprises 11 percent of residential electricity use in the US, and 20 percent of commercial use, according to the Energy Information Administration’s 2014 Annual Energy Outlook report. The total amount of electricity used for commercial lighting is 76 percent greater than that used in the residential sector. The advent of new, more energy efficient lighting technology such as LEDs and CFLs will help to reduce overall electricity consumption for lighting. Inventor Jorge Hernandez has another approach, greater use of solar lighting —a hybrid solar radiation collection and distribution system comprising both passive solar and active solar components, generating electric potential, generating heat, and distributing visible light to numerous endpoints.
The invention, US8839783 — "Apparatus and methods for collecting and distributing radiation" — was granted September 23, 2014. The Albuquerque, NM inventor states,
Previous attempts to use sunlight directly for interior lighting via fresnel lens collectors, reflective light-pipes, and fiber-optic bundles have been plagued by significant losses in the collection and distribution system, ineffective use of non-visible solar radiation, and a lack of integration with co-located electric lighting systems required to supplement solar lighting on cloudy days and at night.
Mr. Hernandez’s invention relates to solar energy illumination of the interiors of structures or exterior facilities such as roads or stadiums. The present invention relates more particularly to an illumination system that collects solar energy, transmits the infrared portion through a coil and transmits the visible light portion through one or more transmittal lines, including but not limited to fiber optic cables or optical tubing, first to a directional light pulse delivery system that also is able to control the intensity of the delivered light. The present invention further relates to an illumination system that transmits the visible portion of solar radiation to a discrete directional delivery system that includes delivery to either optical tubes or photovoltaic devices. The present invention further relates to an illumination system that comprises an energy storage system that provides constant illumination to any location during both the day and the night.
The invention comprises a system to collect, transmit, direct, use, and store solar energy during daylight hours. The invention includes light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that are automatically activated when solar radiation is not available, such as at night or during a cloudy day.
Claim 1 defines the invention:
A solar radiation collection and distribution system including a discrete distribution system comprising: a discrete distribution system comprising: an input fiber optic cable transferring radiation into the discrete distribution system; a first primary lens, disposed adjacent to said cable, focusing the incoming radiation from said input fiber optic cable to a first mirror; said first mirror disposed adjacent to said first primary lens and operable to reflect a portion of the radiation to a first secondary lens positioned obliquely or perpendicularly to said first primary lens, wherein said first secondary lens focuses said portion of radiation to a collector target; and a photovoltaic cell adjustably movable between an unobstructing position, and an obstructing position between said first secondary lens and said collector target, and any point between the unobstructing position and the obstructing position; wherein when said photovoltaic cell is in the unobstructing position, said portion of radiation is transmitted to said collector target, and wherein when in the obstructing position said photovoltaic cell blocks the transmittal of said portion of radiation to said collector target; wherein said collector target comprises a fiber optic cable; and wherein when said photovoltaic cell is moved to a position between the unobstructing position and the obstructing position, said portion of radiation is partially transmitted to said collector target, and a remainder of said portion is collected by said photovoltaic cell.
An Innovator With a Plan
Mr. Hernandez formed a New Mexico Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) in June, 2003 — Illuminated Electric, LLC. Illuminated Electric’s business plan provides market-oriented information about his 'SolaLum' system, and offers a product-based description of the system:
Illuminated Electric’s solar powered hybrid lighting system tracks and concentrates sunlight with a solar collector/concentrating dish. The sunlight is transferred using fiber optics to the patent pending SolaLum light distribution system. This light is monitored and controlled for uniformity. The light is transferred by fiber optics to the light fixture, emitting natural daylight. The light fixture has no need for power like a traditional bulb because it simply emits the light.
To supplement the natural sunlight, the SolaLum light distribution system uses high intensity, high efficiency L.E.Ds as the light source. The SolaLum system measures the incoming natural light, and supplements that light as needed with the LED light source.
The Illuminated Electric Light Distribution system is designed to provide lighting using a single control system with multiple outputs instead of each individual fixture using a light control system. This saves the add-on cost associated with individual hybrid luminaries and since each fixture no longer needs a high voltage power supply, installation and maintenance cost are lowered.
As part of the inventor’s commercialization scheme, a prospectus was filed and posted on istart.org, a "networking site for aspiring entrepreneurs, mentors and advisors to connect with each other and bring potential business ideas to market" sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation.
The Invention in Real Life
Here is a video of how this invention works in the real world.
A Bit of Patent Geekery
This is an interesting invention from a patent data perspective as well. As the USPTO transitions from the venerable US Patent Classification System (USPC) to the new Cooperative Patent Classification system (CPC), the remapping of patents and associated prior art on this type of invention provides insight into the scope of the changes and its potential impact on research into prior art.
A Stove or A Light?
USPTO examiners consider the central inventive concept of this patent to be STOVES AND FURNACES | SOLAR HEAT COLLECTOR | With means to reposition solar collector for optimum radiation exposure | Motor, under the US Patent Classification system (USPC). This long-standing approach to placing inventions with their prior art will be retired effective January 1, 2015 and will become a static collection of prior art.
Under the new international Cooperative Patent Classification system (CPC), Jorge Hernandez’s invention is considered to be MECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING ENGINES OR PUMPS | Lighting; heating | NON-PORTABLE LIGHTING DEVICES OR SYSTEMS THEREOF | Non-electric lighting devices or systems using daylight. This body of prior art seems a much better fit for his invention than does the description provided by the USPC. However, there are other factors at play, most notably the fundamental difference in the way patents are classified in the two systems. In the US system, patents have been classified according to their claims, in light of the full disclosure (i.e., claims are interpreted using information in the patent specification and drawings). In contrast, the CPC system is based on classifying a patent based on the full disclosure in light of the claims. These are vastly different approaches.
Does this mean that the new CPC system is more accurate as far as placing inventions with their prior art? Possibly, in part due to the much greater granularity of the new system (ca. 250,000 distinct prior art categories vs ca. 147,000 for the US system). Accuracy of placement depends upon examiners following the rules of classification, and it will be quite some time before this question can be adequately evaluated by patent practitioners.
Perhaps in part. We like to explore past inventions that set the stage for current ones. Here is a list of some of the historical prior art to which Hernandez’s recent invention has been added. Take a look; the drawings are art.
|Patent Number||Title||Grant Date|
|424144||Shaft Lighter||March 25, 1890|
|289537||Illuminating Sidewalk or Roof to a Continuous Vault or Gallery, &c.||December 4, 1883|
|285625||Combination Daylight-Reflecto"||September 25, 1883|
|285358||Vault-Light Roof and Sidewalk for Basements and Rear Extensions of Buildings||September 18, 1883|
|284963||Vault or Combination Skylight Reflector-Roof||September 11, 1883|
|284559||Sky of Vault Light Roof and Roof Pavement||September 4, 1883|
|270132||Illuminating-Tiling for Vaults, &c.||January 2, 1883|
|269292||Illuminating Basements||December 19, 1882|
|259346||Illuminated Structure||June 13, 1882|
|147401||Improvement in Illuminating Roof-Plates||February 10, 1874|
|142472||Improvement in Illuminating Roofings||September 2, 1873|
|13615||Corrugated Reflector||October 2, 1855|