Two young designers have found a way to harness the radio waves surrounding us, creating an innovative lighting solution.
As technology and telecommunications have progressed, our environment has become inundated with electromagnetic radiation from the multitude of devices that we use.
In the last 30 years digital technologies have exceptionally increased in production and consumption: statistics show that five billion devices broadcast every day from all over the world. At the same time, wired digital technology is quickly disappearing to make space for wireless systems.
Wireless technology is based on radio frequencies and their electromagnetic field. The whole apparatus of electronic devices creates an intangible and invisible network of waves in the contemporary habitat. However, these waves are definitely physical and have caused concern, both among scientists and the general public, about the health effects of exposure to them.
Radio waves travel thousands of kilometres in a few milliseconds and transcend materials that we otherwise think of as being impenetrable. According to designers, Alice Bonicelli and Lorena Rubio Toledo, “Electromagnetic fields constitute an ubiquitous and dematerialised layer that overlays on our landscape. We call it ‘radioscape’”.
The duo noticed that our habitats are pervaded by electromagnetic radiations deriving from electronic devices. “Instead of shielding ourselves from these omnipresent radio waves, we speculate on future possibilities of using them as open-source energy,” they say. As a result, they’ve created wireless lamps which are activated when they encounter an invisible electromagnetic field.
The prevalence of radio waves has led to a constant public discussion on a various related topics, from privacy to health. Bonicelli and Rubio Toledo, students from Piet Zwart Institute’s Master Interior Architecture and Retail Design program in Rotterdam, felt that it was necessary to bring a different perspective to the dialogue and created ‘Radio Killed The Electric Star’.
“Our project, instead, aims to make a positive, proactive use of the electromagnetic field, treating it as an omnipresent, wireless, open-source of energy,” say Bonicelli and Rubio Toledo.
‘Radio Killed The Electric Star’ is a series of lamps that function by interacting with a self-produced field. The pieces are composed of two exaggerated induction coils. When placed in proximity to one another – one generating, the other receiving – an integrated LED turns on automatically. Placing them at a distance breaks the link, and the light turns off.
The project raises interesting ideas and questions, such as: What would the interior look like, if every appliance worked wireless? May the magic of proximity and closeness lead to new aesthetic possibilities in our electromagnetic next habitat?
The project also opens a potential, untapped renewable energy source at a time when designers are increasingly focused on sustainability as a measure of good design.
The project was featured in ‘Next Habitat’ exhibition, during Milan Design Week 2015. The lamps are in the phase of prototypes. The designers are currently seeking into collaborations for further development.
Text By Alyssa Lobo