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Gravity Lamp Grabs Green Prize 596

eldavojohn writes "A lamp powered by gravity has won the second prize at the Greener Gadgets Conference in NYC. From the article, "The light output will be 600-800 lumens — roughly equal to a 40-watt incandescent bulb over a period of four hours. To "turn on" the lamp, the user moves weights from the bottom to the top of the lamp. An hour glass-like mechanism is turned over and the weights are placed in the mass sled near the top of the lamp. The sled begins its gentle glide back down and, within a few seconds, the LEDs come on and light the lamp ... Moulton estimates that Gravia's mechanisms will last more than 200 years, if used eight hours a day, 365 days a year." The article contains links to the patents and the designer/inventor Clay Moulton's site." I think my laptop would require a slightly larger weight to pull this off.
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Gravity Lamp Grabs Green Prize

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  • Where can you buy it and how much.
    • by edittard ( 805475 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:49AM (#22488726)
      Say what?!? Why on earth would they tell you that?

      This is slashdot, we have articles here, not thinly disguised advertisements.
    • by clonan ( 64380 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:51AM (#22488746)
      you will have to start flipping your desktop over every few minutes ;-)
    • Re:Looks cool... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by eln ( 21727 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:57AM (#22488842)
      I really like the idea, and would probably buy one if the price is right.

      However, one thing concerns me. The weights are moved up to the top by human power, which is fine, but according to the picture on the designer's website, the weights are 5 10 pound weights in each lamp, so either I'm having to lift 10 pounds 5 times every time I want to light the lamp, or I'm lifting 50 pounds. Perhaps he could incorporate some sort of foot pedal mechanism or something to more easily lift the weights. If he could figure out how to do that, and also maybe improve the efficiency a little more to get more than the 40-watt equivalent it gets now, I could see this becoming a solid replacement for traditional lamps.
      • by Angostura ( 703910 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @11:08AM (#22488998)

        Perhaps he could incorporate some sort of foot pedal mechanism or something to more easily lift the weights.

        I can't really see why a small electric motor couldn't be incorporated into the design to do this, surely it would be much more convenient?
      • Re:Looks cool... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by s_p_oneil ( 795792 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:18PM (#22490094) Homepage
        The idea sounds good to me too, but 50lbs. sounds like too much to put at the top of a lamp. I have young kids, and I don't want them getting crushed when they knock this thing over (as they almost certainly will). In addition, a lamp that requires 50lbs. of anything doesn't sound green on the construction side.
        • Instead of having a 50 pound weight, why not have a much lower mass spring provide the equivalent pull?
          • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot.kadin@x ... inus threevowels> on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @01:26PM (#22491218) Homepage Journal
            Probably could, but the overall lifetime of the device wouldn't be as long. Springs wear out over time, especially under heavy loads. The springs used in garage doors to assist you in pulling the door up (which were more common before everyone started installing power-operated doors) wear out after 10-20 years, for instance. I suspect each one of those springs -- there are typically 2 on a door -- each support 50 pounds or so.

            I think part of the beauty of the mechanism is that it's really robust and long-lasting.

            Just thinking about how you could build such a thing, I bet you could make a machine that had multiple ways of recharging/resetting it. My thought would be to have a lightweight 'sled' with a heavy removable weight on it. When the heavy weight is removed from the sled, a very small counterweight pulls it back up to the top of its track, so you can place the heavy weight back on. That's one way of resetting it, and the easiest provided you could pick up and lift the weight at once. The alternative would be to put a small crank on the sled's counterweight wire, which would allow you to slowly crank up the sled, with the counterweight on it. You'd end up doing the same amount of work but with a much smaller amount of force, due to the mechanical advantage of the crank.

            That arrangement completely avoids using springs (it would only use counterweights) and would probably last a long time. I'm not sure whether it would be long enough to build some sort of 'Clock of the Long Now'-type device, but it would probably last a few human generations.
            • by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @01:54PM (#22491736) Homepage Journal
              Another benefit is that scrap metal and rocks could be utilized as the weights -- IOW junk that's already "energy paid-for" rather than needing to be manufactured afresh, like spring steel.

              As to the people whining about how it's too much work to move the weights... check your waistlines. 'Nuf said!!

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by cuantar ( 897695 )
              Why not let the counterweight do work as well? Suppose you have a contraption with two equal mass carts, into which you can place a driving mass. When the heavier cart reaches the bottom, you simply take the mass out and place it in the cart at the top. The machine then functions much like an hourglass, and has a certain symmetry to it that I would call attractive.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Chris Burke ( 6130 )
              The springs used in garage doors to assist you in pulling the door up (which were more common before everyone started installing power-operated doors) wear out after 10-20 years, for instance.

              Uh, I'm pretty sure they are still used most of the time even with automatic doors. Those chincy little motors couldn't lift the full weight of a wooden garage door, nor could their mountings handle it most of the time. The spring is still there, and is still doing most of the work. Certainly at least when the sprin
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jerf ( 17166 )

          In addition, a lamp that requires 50lbs. of anything doesn't sound green on the construction side.

          Which just goes to show how little you should trust your intuition or feelings when it comes to true environmentalism.

          We live on a 13,170,856,500,000,000,000,000,000 pound rock. Are you sure that 50 pounds of mass is going to break Gaia?

          50 pounds of something in particular could be an environmental problem. 50 pounds of mercury would be horrible. But just "50 pounds" is nothing. Personally, I'd love to have thi

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Incadenza ( 560402 )

          The idea sounds good to me too, but 50lbs. sounds like too much to put at the top of a lamp. I have young kids, and I don't want them getting crushed when they knock this thing over
          Don't worry, we'll fill the foot of the lamp with depleted uranium. No way they'll knock that over. Safe as milk.
      • by rrohbeck ( 944847 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:20PM (#22490140)
        Come on. I lift 50 pounds and much more many times most days... and I pay for it!
        Think of it in terms of your health/fitness and gym membership fees you save.
      • Re:Looks cool... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:50PM (#22490628) Journal
        either I'm having to lift 10 pounds 5 times every time I want to light the lamp, or I'm lifting 50 pounds.

        Unless you are weakened by some medical condition lifting 10 pounds, 4 feet, 5 times in a row, every four waking hours isn't enough of a demand to be an issue. On the contrary I think this regular weight bearing movement might be a very good thing for the elderly or physically frail. [familydoctor.org]This could be viewed as an in-home several-times-a-day physical therapy light. Maybe a moveable stop, which could allow for the weight to start higher off the floor, but would need to be rest more often would be good addition for those with bad backs or knees that can't reach low to the ground. But to force people to get off the couch every two to four hours and move a few ten pound weights can really only be a benefit for the majority of the western world.
    • Re:Looks cool... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheLostSamurai ( 1051736 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @11:04AM (#22488944)

      "Concept illustrations of Gravia" "Moulton estimates" "He predicted"
      As far as I can tell this is nothing more than vaporware. There doesn't seem to be any indication in the article that this thing has actually been built. While is does seem like a cool concept the overall implementation does not seem that complicated; so why has he not actually built the thing?
      • Re:Looks cool... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @02:04PM (#22491912) Homepage
        so why has he not actually built the thing?

        because it cant be made. You have a better chance at making cold fusion work or a perpetual motion machine than making this lamp do what was claimed.

        first, there is no way for them to make enough energy even assuming 100% conversion to generate the electricity needed to power even 1 led for enough light to match that of a book light, many others here have covered this fact already..

        Secondly the designer made HUGE mistakes in assumption is is a fact being missed by everyone else here debunking it.. Led's when rated in lumens are rated in their very narrow beam pattern, when you fire it into a lens/reflector to disperse the light to get an area lighting effect that his lamp is going for the lumens drop logarithmically. to go from the 15Deg beam pattern the LED's lumen output is measured at to a 270 degree pattern you will lose about 80% of the lumen output level.

        So to get The claimed output, the device needs to generate a SHITLOAD more power, or increase the weight to be near 900 pounds or only operate for a few seconds at a time.

        In other words, it does not work, cant work, and will never work. I think the guy is waiting for the laws of physics to be broken for his lamp to work.

        I have been working with a company that designs LED lighting systems and most everyone get's confused because ratings on LED's are all over the road and not measured the same way as other lamp technologies.

        This lamp if it used CFL lamps would have a far better chance at makign the claimed Lumen output than with LED's led's are still far-far less efficient than CFL lamps when it comes to area light output in beam widths wider than 20 degrees.
    • Wouldn't it be cool if one could reset the device simply by flipping it over (hourglass style), rather than having to use some mechanism to reset the weight to the top of the device?

      Just a thought.
  • how long before the home gym captures energy for your home. (pre-patented by the professor on gilligan's). Also, where the hell do I buy one?
    • Re:Home Gym.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by krlynch ( 158571 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @11:10AM (#22489030) Homepage
      how long before the home gym captures energy for your home.

      Never :-)

      Humans can not produce large amounts of sustained output power, even when exercising. A "healthy human" can probably push out 300W for about 20 minutes [ohiou.edu] before they collapse from exhaustion. Even if you can convert all of that to electricity and store it for later use at something like 50% efficiency (which would be staggeringly high), you're only talking about 0.05kWh of usable energy. You could do much better if you were willing to exercise at much lower intensity for much much longer periods of time (but who would do that just to light a minuscule handful of light bulbs). But you're really not going to ever get usable amounts of power out of your daily exercise routine.
      • Alas (Score:4, Funny)

        by Sciros ( 986030 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @11:51AM (#22489642) Journal
        If only the machines in The Matrix knew this...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hitch ( 1361 )
        you're thinking pure energy output by direct action - I think the poster was suggesting using a similar process to the one described by the lamp. 2 sets of 10 reps of 50lbs (for certain exercises) can be used to create a fairly decent source of potential energy for lighting. I figure...a single rep lifts weights about 18" - if this lamp is 6' tall...and it takes 10 5lb weights to power it from that height...
        that's 4 reps to get the weights that high if attached to a ratcheting system. properly constructe
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

        But you're really not going to ever get usable amounts of power out of your daily exercise routine.

        The real issue is that so much power is wasted. A lot of energy is just dissipated for no reason around your home. That energy could be harnessed somewhat inefficiently but still cheaply and if it were done over time and as a matter of course the actual cost would be minimal. Of course, so would the benefits, but we all know such things add up.

        I've heard about several households where a crap TV was hooked up to a bicycle-powered generator. Oh sure, the TV probably dies an early death due to brownouts, bu

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Ride a bike instead of driving.
    • Total Gym. (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kamokazi ( 1080091 )
      If we rigged this up to the Total Gym, Chuck Norris could power the entire country in just 20 minutes a day for low low payments of $19.95.
  • by friedo ( 112163 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:51AM (#22488760) Homepage
    How about a clock?
  • A patent? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:52AM (#22488766) Homepage
    How is this any different than a clock powered by weights? It's nice, but hardly a new idea.
  • bwahaha. (Score:5, Funny)

    by notgm ( 1069012 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:53AM (#22488776)
    i'm going to use the light from this lamp to power my photovoltaic weight lifting machine.
  • by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:54AM (#22488794)
    the consumption of gravity? Just imagine the peril if we use our precious resources like gravity on things like lamps, when we have coal to burn.

    Will it still be cool to light up your lamp with gravity, when there's no gravity left and people are spinning right off the planet into outerspace? I guess it will eliminate the greenhouse gas issue by allowing the atmosphere to disappear when there's no more gravity left - but unfortunately it will also not allow people to live (the ones that are still on the planet after the other ones spun off into space as noted earlier)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jagilbertvt ( 447707 )
      While the parent is joking, I do wonder how much angular velocity the Earth would lose if we switched an entire country (or say the entire world) lights to being powered by such devices. Eventually the earth would stop spinning.. Has the inventor taken this into account? Perhaps he'll be to blame for the end of world!
  • by Tteddo ( 543485 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:56AM (#22488814) Homepage
    But what will we do after peak gravity?
  • by MSTCrow5429 ( 642744 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:56AM (#22488826)

    "The acrylic lens will be altered by time in an attractive fashion, Moulton said. "The LEDs produce a slightly unnatural blue-ish light. As the acrylic ages, it becomes slightly yellowed and crazed through exposure to ultraviolet light," he said. "The yellowing and crazing will tend to mitigate the unnatural blue hue of the LED light. Thus, Gravia will produce a more natural color of light with age."

    He predicted that the acrylic will begin to yellow within 10 to 15 years when Gravia is used in a home's interior room.

    Why would I buy a product that takes 10-15 years to become tolerable for normal household use, when in 10-15 years, either this technology will be updated so that it comes with natural light out of the box, or new competing technologies develop that do the same thing, without the color drawback?
  • by techpawn ( 969834 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:57AM (#22488844) Journal
    I read it as:

    Gravy lamp grabs green prize
    But the gravity lamp makes much more sense. But I'm not sure it would catch on. It's like those flashlights you have to shake to make work. Yeah, they're neat, but people are lazy and just want to press a button and have it work. They don't want the effort of shaking it or moving weights around.
  • by Zebraheaded ( 1229302 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:59AM (#22488872)
    To say that it runs on potential energy? The device always *has* gravity, but it's not drawing it off. Once you supply the device with some potential energy though, it takes that energy and utilizes it.

    I guess "Potentia" isn't as marketable a name, though.
  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @11:04AM (#22488948)
    I don't know why this info was not included in the up-front literature. --It's only mentioned on the bottom left corner of one of the design graphics. [core77.com]

    Four hours is an awesome run-time for such a device.

    I lived in a house once where the land lord had a wind-up radio. It was great in every respect other than its run time; every fifteen minutes or so you had to crank it up again, which made it annoying to use.


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Goaway ( 82658 )
      It would be pretty awesome, if it was possible.

      The maths just don't check out, however. There is no way to produce that much light for four hours with anything less than a ton or so of weight.
      • by James McP ( 3700 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @11:41AM (#22489484)
        You sir, are correct.

        There's 50lbs of weight that fall about 4ft, if I'm reading the diagrams right. That's 200 ft-lbs. Which comes out to... hmm... 0.075 watt-hours. Over 4 hours that means 0.019 watts continuous power. From memory really good blue LEDs are around 200 lumens/watt so .....3.8 lumens. A candle is ...13 lumens. So it's about a third of a candle. An ideal light source is ~680 lumens/watt would be 13 lumens, or a candle.

        To get ~700 lumen light at 200 lumen/watt would require 3.5 watts of power, over 4 hours is 14 watt-hours or 3700 ft-lbs. Over 4ft of fall that amounts to 925 lbs. My goodness, that is a group effort.
  • Next step ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by garett_spencley ( 193892 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @11:08AM (#22488996) Journal
    Vibrating sex toys that power themselves ?
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @11:31AM (#22489326)
    Got me thinking about how, in a two-story house, there's all sorts of vertical movement. I was picturing a way to step on a platform (sort of like those that parking lot attendants sometimes use) to ride from the second floor to the first. That buffered ride down could throw some energy into a flywheel. And, how about all of the greywater from upstairs? Three people taking their morning showers send many pounds of water down a vertical path to ground level. I wonder if passing that through some sort of screw drive might give up a few watts.
  • by CaligarisDesk ( 1189113 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @11:41AM (#22489490)

    It's more complicated than flipping a switch but can be an acceptable, even enjoyable routine, like winding a beautiful clock or making good coffee.
    As a light connoisseur, I find the assertion comparing quality light to coffee offensive. Quality light comes from a fine femto-scale process involving the emission of photons from the de-excitation of electrons. Making good coffee merely relies on macroscopic processes such as roasting, grinding and brewing.
  • by llZENll ( 545605 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @01:04PM (#22490880)
    Simply building and shipping the 50 pound thing will probably consume more energy than it saves in its entire life. You are better off simply buying a high efficiency LED screw in bulb which are available right now for much less and do work.
  • by Zalbik ( 308903 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @02:11PM (#22492008)
    Why all the interest in the second-place winner...especially given it can't possibly do what the designer claims without something like a 1 tonne weight...

    The first prize winner seems MUCH more interesting: An open-source design for an energy meter.

    See here [core77.com]

    Basically, he's gonna provide the design specs to build your own kill-a-watt [p3international.com]

    So, it's:
    • Eco-friendly
    • Open Source
    • Geeky
    • Ugly as heck

    And no interest whatsoever on Slashdot? WTF?
  • Small Correction (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BlackGriffen ( 521856 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @04:29PM (#22493986)
    This device isn't powered by gravity, it's powered by people. Gravity only stores the energy for slow release, like a capacitor.

I THINK THEY SHOULD CONTINUE the policy of not giving a Nobel Prize for paneling. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.