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German design student creates wind powered street light

In a bid to reduce the ecological footprint of modern street lighting, German design student Tobias Trubenabacher has developed an ingenious wind powered alternative called PAPILIO.

When it comes to major cities today, implementing widescale sustainability initiatives is definitely a tricky task, but that shouldn’t deter us from innovating and making a difference where we can.

This positive mindset is one held by Tobias Trubenabacher, a product design student at the University of the Arts Berlin, whose ingenious invention may just help to make his city (and hopefully ours) greener in the near future.

Stemming from long harboured concern over the west’s use of artificial light and the energy required to keep densely populated areas lit, Tobias spent his time at uni developing the world’s first circular wind-powered alternative called PAPILIO.

Where our current lamps are labelled as ‘consumers’ of energy, PAPILIO actually functions as a ‘prosumer’ which means it creates its own energy and even feeds surplus back into existing energy networks. Neat, eh?

The central component to generate this clean energy is a large green rotor comprised of sheet metal which sits just above the bulb.

Feeding directly into a 300-watt generator, this unit spins like a wind turbine and makes use of any direction of airflow – including both natural wind and air streams from traffic.

Its rechargeable battery is able to store energy and use it during periods without much wind. The renewable energy is also put to immediate use and activates the downward facing light whenever movement sets of its infrared sensor.

As someone with dodgy bedroom blinds, the prospect of lights coming on only when they’re needed and not pouring through every gap in our windows all night is certainly preferable.

Not only is Tobias’ invention incredibly efficient in that way, but it has the potential to reduce the harmful impact artificial light can have on insects and surrounding plant life too. Light pollution (if you will) is limited with the PAPILIO through warm colour bulbs of 2800 kelvin, which bugs aren’t too keen on incidentally.

Speaking on the subject, Tobias stated, ‘light pollution not only has bad health effects on humans, like causing sleep disorders, depression, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer, but has also a serious impact on flora and fauna.’

‘Extinction of species, orientation loss of migratory birds, significant disorder for fish migration, as well as disturbed biorhythms of plants like for instance delayed leaf shedding, are only a fraction of these consequences.’

Though the main design is mounted on a mast between three and six metres high – where windspeeds are typically strongest in cities – a variant of the PAPILIO is also available which can be attached to the walls of houses or communal buildings.

With this particular design, the light resides on top of the turbine and luminates outward instead of below.

Aside from the obvious perks in a sustainable sense, the PAPILIO is quieter than regular street lights, saves more space, is less dangerous to all forms of life, and makes use of what is usually a massive irritant for city dwellers: wind.

Creating long-term solutions to cut our existing energy hungry networks will be no easy task and granted it will take time. However, that doesn’t mean to say nihilism is an option and that changes shouldn’t be implemented slowly, starting now.

Here’s to hoping Berlin doesn’t take Tobias’ work for granted. We’ll keep a close eye on Google Maps.