We challenged ourselves to develop a product with the broadest market opportunity by considering the top 5 categories listed, and creating a single ecologically friendly product concept with applications in each category. The categories (ranked highest to lowest) are: Dining out, Entertaining Friends or Relatives at Home, Reading Books, Barbecuing, and Going to the Beach.
To increase the challenge, we wanted to identify a product for sale in commercial and consumer markets.
With sketchpad in hand, we went to Apsara restaurant in Cincinnati and headed to the patio for tempura, ebi soro and a custard desert. It was a sunny, breezy day and a perfect environment for contemplating lofty ideas of leisure and entertainment. Thoughts went to beaches and patios, sun and shade, eating and drinking, and …reading.
Product categories quickly gravitated to furniture; lounge chairs, tables and umbrellas …for eating or reading …for individuals or companions …for day or night. Then “voila”- an umbrella for day and night. It blocks light during the day and emits it at night. This new umbrella serves one person reading or dining alone, or a group socializing at home or dining out. And now for the best part – solar energy is gathered by the fabric upper surface during the day, while blocking sunlight; is stored in the umbrella fabric layers until needed; and is used to power the luminescent fabric under surface during the night.
The Apsara Solar Umbrella is a familiar looking teak frame umbrella with flowing cotton fabric that pleases the senses. The Apsara has a “catch-and-release” fabric that absorbs light from above during the day and disperses it below during the night. Totally self-contained, the umbrella can be taken anywhere and used anytime. It can be stuck in the sand on a beach or placed in a café table on the patio at home.
Technology can be utilized to make the solar umbrella a reality. The Flexible solar panels are available here. Development is underway to make it even more flexible through photovoltaic materials.
Flexible batteries are available and research is underway to make even more flexible batteries, reported by Science Daily and the BBC.
Also, Enfucel has a commercially available flexible battery. The concern with current technology is the battery’s life cycle and recycling aspects.
Flat panel LED light pipes are currently available from various sources including optomarket.
These products can produce the type of light envisioned, but do not offer the flexibility. Flexible light pipe materials are available here and can be woven into fabric.
Bringing the 3 components together to provide a truly flexible “catch-and-release” fabric is the final step in making the Apsara Solar Umbrella a reality. The Apsara Solar Umbrella offers an alternative to current nighttime illumination. It targets all who enjoy the outdoors, and its technology offers a substitute to existing energy sources.