EcoNation and the Mechatronics 4.0 team (Flanders Make, imec and Sirris) improved the LightCatcher, an intelligent skylight with a rotating mirror that increases light efficiency. The current system operates fully autonomously, receiving its power through a solar cell and battery. However, there was margin for improving the control algorithm. Changeable weather conditions created quite a few challenges because the absence of sun, irregular blankets of clouds and reflective objects such as windows occasionally prevent the mirror from accurately aligning with the sun.
The intelligent LightCatcher skylight of EcoNation
Therefore, the project studied ways to make the initialisation and operation of the mirror better resistant to these external influences. The team developed a simulation environment in which the path of the sun, weather conditions and sensor responses could be combined. The new control algorithm was validated experimentally using rapid prototyping. Result: the basic algorithm of the LightCatcher, which – based on the difference between two light sensors – rotates the mirror towards the sun, has now been complemented by a learning algorithm that remembers the path of the sun along the firmament. Reliable logged data ensure that even on cloudy days the mirror does not lose track of the sun and, as a result, is in the right position as soon as the sun pierces through the clouds.
The smart learning algorithm creates a clear win-win situation. Because the mirror no longer rotates back and forth in search of the sun, its power consumption is lowered and the LightCather’s efficiency increased. The robust and autonomous character of the LightCatcher considerably decreases the costs linked to installation and maintenance. Finally, this could all be realised using only the current limited set of sensors, thus avoiding the potential additional cost for expensive sensors.
In the Flanders Mechatronics 4.0 project, Flanders Make, IMEC and Sirris apply innovations to specific industrial cases.
Contact person: Maarten Witters