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What Is A Light Tube?

written by: Ricky • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 8/5/2009

In this article we will see about an interesting concept wherein sunlight is used to brighten up the interiors of a home or building space

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    We are all aware of the acute energy shortage in the world and coupled with the ever rising demand for electricity, it is a serious issue. Scientists and researchers are working round the clock to overcome this problem by utilising energy from as many sources as possible.

    Solar energy is not a new concept now and most of us are familiar with the solar panels which generate energy to be used in houses and industry. But we are going to talk here about a different type of solar use in the form of solar tube skylight also known by various names such as light tubes and so forth.

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    What are Solar Tube Skylights?

    As opposed to a solar cell which uses the energy of the sun and converts the light energy into electrical energy which is used to drive various appliances; the skylight tube simply transports the light of the sun from the exterior of a building or space to its interior. This means that the natural light can be used to brighten up the inside space and thus save electricity.

    Of course this may seem a simple idea but actually it is immensely useful. You might say that normally all homes and buildings are constructed keeping the sunlight requirements in mind. Thought that is true to a great extent, still it may not be possible to actually make provision for sunlight to reach all nooks and corners of the inside due to several reasons.

    For example there may not be any way to procure sunlight directly in the central space of a big building which has several stories and is quite huge in size. Sometimes the building or space might be surrounded by very tall buildings so that no sunlight is available directly.

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    So what does the Skylight do?

    Well, the answer to this question is pretty simple. The skylight simply acts like your water pipe which transports water from the tap to place which is otherwise inaccessible so that you can use water in that place. It might seem a bit of strange concept to transport light inside a tube but this is made possible by the unique construction and design of skylights.

    I am sure even if you are not familiar with skylight tubes prior to reading this article, you certainly have seen optical fibres. The adjacent pictures shows the image of a commonly used decoration item which is found in many homes. Basically it consists of a light source which is spread to various points using the thin fibres and hence the ordinary light of the bulb at the bottom gets distributed into tiny thin points. This gives a very pleasant visual experience especially when viewed in dim light or total dark. Optical Fibre Decoration 

    Our purpose here is to use this as a basis to understand the construction and working of an actual light tube. In our next article we will how these tubes work and also see their practical applications in more detail.