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Illuminating Window-Less Houses With a Plastic Bottle 240

New submitter DancesWithWolves writes "The BBC reports on Alfredo Moser, who came up with a way of illuminating his house during the day without electricity — using nothing more than plastic bottles filled with water and a tiny bit of bleach. In the last two years his idea has spread throughout the world. It is expected to be in one million homes by early next year.'"
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Illuminating Window-Less Houses With a Plastic Bottle

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  • Lighting on ships... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by killfixx ( 148785 ) * on Tuesday August 13, 2013 @01:12PM (#44554663) Journal

    I've seen this type of lighting system before on old ships (USS Constitution, etc...).

    Instead of a water they used glass blocks (or similar).

    But, it's great to see a novel way of recycling trash into something beneficial! :)


    • If you're ever in SoHo in New York, look down. See all those marbles embedded in the sidewalk next to stores? Same thing.

      They were doing that long before electricity was used to light the basements of buildings.

    • I've seen this type of lighting system before on old ships (USS Constitution, etc...).

      Deck prisms have been used for centuries.

      DeckPrisms.com sells reproductions for decorative use and restoration. Marine supply houses sell them with frames. Fixed Portholes and Deck Prisms [sailboatstuff.com]

  • Great idea and implementation... at least where you have the type of roof where it can be used. One modification I would add would be to add something to the water in order to make it just a bit cloudy... this would diffuse the light a bit more. Of course, depending on the plastic, it may cloud up as it ages in any case, or start with cloudy plastic (i.e. plastic milk bottles).
    • OTOH any unevenness could be a benefit. The light will be somewhat diffuse in any case. If anyone needs intense light, any hotspots can be used for that.

    • depending on the plastic, it may cloud up as it ages in any case, or start with cloudy plastic (i.e. plastic milk bottles).

      I wonder how long one of these bottles will last out in the Sun and Weather? Aren't these plastic bottles made to biodegrade?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Jmc23 ( 2353706 )
        Oh god, your naivety would be so funny if our reality wasn't so sad.

        Like barbaric idiots we still have no laws mandating that anything produced be recyclable or biodegradable. Faced with the facts of how plastic kills wildlife and pollutes the environment, we just happily keep producing more.

        • I leave plastic out, it becomes brittle and breaks. Are you suggesting it is more durable than it is when exposed to ultraviolet?

          Or did you focus is a single word and use it to post a knee jerk response that, while it may be true, is unrelated?

          And, outside of laws, some companies do sell a green message, and provide products intended to degrade more quickly. Are those not within the scope of discussions?

        • Oh god, your naivety would be so funny if our reality wasn't so sad.

          Like barbaric idiots we still have no laws mandating that anything produced be recyclable or biodegradable. Faced with the facts of how plastic kills wildlife and pollutes the environment, we just happily keep producing more.

          Nobody said the bottles weren't recyclable (recyclable in the traditional sense; this story is about a novel way to recycle bottles).

        • That is what George said we are here for.
      • Your optimism is noted but misplaced. PET plastics [wikipedia.org] are recyclable but not biodegradable. The newer Bioplastics are however those are not readily used in production in any country where you would need to make a sun-light.

  • by StuartHankins ( 1020819 ) on Tuesday August 13, 2013 @01:17PM (#44554741)
    Elegant and no energy costs. It recycles something we all have handy. Easy to install also. Hard to argue with all those benefits!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by olsmeister ( 1488789 )
      Wouldn't work here. I'd have an almighty mess after the first 20 degree night.
      • Assuming that's 20F, if you live in a house like the ones in the article (with a tin roof), then you have more serious problems than light.....
      • Add a bit of salt, alcohol, or anti freeze.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freezing-point_depression [wikipedia.org]

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Add salt to the water.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        Somehow I find myself surprised that this is the second comment in the thread, rather than the first. Do we really need "won't work for me" posts on every story? Did anyone claim it was universally applicable and utterly flawless?

      • Wouldn't work here. I'd have an almighty mess after the first 20 degree night.

        Have you ever actually frozen a soda bottle? They survive just fine through many freeze-thaw cycles even while being exposed to UV. My mom used a wall of water-filled soda bottles as a way of regulating the temperature near some of her plants. They sat outside for years of winters before we got rid of them all. We also used some as ice-blocks for the cooler when picnicking - just made sure there was an air-gap for the water to expand into when freezing. I once tried filling a PET shampoo bottle with water (

      • Most people heat the inside of their homes.

    • Saw this some time back
    • a few years from now hilarity ensues while the residents squatting in mold, mildew and filth bemoan the fact they were suckered to cut holes in the roof assuming they could obtain sealer and more bottle indefinitely. wait for it!

  • by Urban Garlic ( 447282 ) on Tuesday August 13, 2013 @01:28PM (#44554911)

    They're completely unhackable! [slashdot.org].

    Soon they'll be mandatory in Enterprise deployments.

    • They're only "unhackable" inasmuch as they aren't computerized or connected to any computer networks. But you can easily hack these to cause blackouts. Paint their exterior surfaces, for instance. Or unscrew the lid and let nature take its course over the next few weeks/months. Or punch a hole through it, which not only leaves them with reduced light, but also causes water damage to the interior of the room. And, if we're going down the tech route, surely we've already solved the problem of unscrambling ref

    • Soon they'll be mandatory in Enterprise deployments.

        Would be nice, but, at least in my current office, they are being ignored. The space above the ceiling is illuminated by "deck prisms" in the roof, but all the ceiling panels are opaque, so our work space does not get any of that - except when a facilities tech opens a panel to get at something above the ceiling.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "I just heard someone on the roof. Why is it yellow in here?"
  • by dmatos ( 232892 ) on Tuesday August 13, 2013 @01:51PM (#44555321)

    to illuminating a house with no windows is . . . to add windows? Wow.

    I mean, some kudos are deserved for finding an inexpensive (almost free) way to add windows, and using windows whose shape provides some refractory scattering of the incoming light. Still though, his solution to no windows was literally TO ADD WINDOWS.

    • by tocsy ( 2489832 ) on Tuesday August 13, 2013 @02:10PM (#44555609)

      The important part is really that his idea doesn't use electricity and recycles widely available waste to provide the lighting. It also provides more light than a window the same size would, so I imagine it doesn't create as large of a structural problem.

      I worked with a non-profit called Long Way Home [lwhome.org] a few years ago who I believe was doing this, along with using plastic bottles and used tires for to build a structurally sound, environmentally friendly school in Guatemala. Unfortunately I couldn't find a picture of the plastic bottle lights in use but if you're interested, check out their website - they could use the exposure.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      Brilliant observation. Now kindly find us a near-free way to add windows that do not jeopardise the structural integrity of standard slum shack, while also providing shelter from winds and rain.

  • by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Tuesday August 13, 2013 @01:58PM (#44555411)
    This is Slashdot, where perfect is the enemy of good.

    Because there are edge use-cases where this won't work, it's completely unsuitable for ALL applications.

    Or, to put it another way, because it won't work in some guy's shed in Anchorage, poor people in Africa, Asia and South America should continue to toil in the dark until a proper solution involving LEDs and / or light pipes is made available.

    Now, instead let's discuss how 2014 will definitely be the year of Linux on the desktop.
  • Plastic bottles aren't exactly UV-stable...
  • It's a poor man's Solatube [solatube.com]. However, in a hail-prevalent area like mine, I would go to the expense of a Solatube than plastic bottles.

    • What kind of hail do you have that would damage the small end of a plastic bottle?
      I'm trying to imagine how much force it would take to damage one.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      solartubes are horrible heat leaks. they are the worst thing in the world to install in any home that has insulation. What I am waiting for is 3" diameter acrylic rod that will do this for me and not have the ungodly heat losses that the solatube junk does. I had all 3 taken out of my home because of the losses they have.

      • According to their web site, that is not completely true

        The Solatube 160 DSe provides the ultimate in energy-efficient daylighting. Delivering natural light to spaces up to 200 sq. ft., it is designed to minimize heat loss in extremely cold climates and heat gain in extremely warm climates. As a result, this product has earned an Energy Star rating.

        Everything I see about them is that they are no worse then a window/skylight and perhaps better on heat exchange. The residential model seem more for small areas and I have a @ 800sqft room I'd love to light up so it may be cost prohibative, but a pretty good product overall.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday August 13, 2013 @02:27PM (#44555891) Homepage

    Honestly it seems that every year for the past 4 years slashdot herolds this.

    Then HAD will do it in about 2 days.

  • And here I was hoping for some fun chemistry. Instead we get "no electricity? Use the sun!" What if I have no sun you insensitive clod!
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphor#Glow-in-the-dark_toys [wikipedia.org]

    Just a thought; might help diffuse light in the daytime, as well as providing some light after dark.

    Whether or not the materials to make such a modification are readily available in third-world countries I cannot speculate on.

  • What happens when night falls?

  • It's a great idea, costing almost nothing to implement and light up dingy shacks and such. But I wondered if you get some sort of decent light on a nice dark full moon night? Nobody seems to have mentioned that
  • The BBC article goes all breathless about this great low-tech approach for poor third-world countries without mentioning the fact that the user has drilled a bunch of holes in their roof. Combine that with a rainy climate like the Philippines (mentioned in the article) and you've got a problem. The solution, apparently, is polyester resin. Excellent choice, and so widely available in third-world slums. No slam intended to the unfortunate residents who are also blessed with power tools.
    • Tools only require power in lazy post-industrial societies. Hand tools are inexpensive, effective and less costly to operate. I've cut steel roofing with hand snips in seconds.

      Polyester resin is kind of a staple product. In post-industrial societies, it's sold for recreation in craft stores. But in less developed places, it's needed for boat building and all sorts of fabrication. Before 3D printers with their costly supplies, we made molds and used resin for pennies.

      I imagine they are chosing it over t

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