From the outside, the glowing LED wall clock on the wall of the Illuminata at The Ritz-Carlton in Paris is a simple display.
Inside, however, the clock is part of a scientific experiment.
Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have spent months developing an illuminated clock that will be able to generate electricity and power a light-emitting diode to record the time every second.
The project has been funded by a European Union grant.
Illumina’s researchers said the light-sensitive material they developed, called LED-D, will be used in a future device that converts light into electrical energy.
The LED-d, which is transparent to ultraviolet light, will glow at specific wavelengths of light.
In theory, this light can be used to create a “time-keeping device,” according to the team.
“We believe this is the first example of a time-keeping component that is transparent and can be turned on and off without a power source,” said Thomas Tissier, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is a co-author of the new paper published in the journal Nature Materials.
The researchers also have plans to create “bionic” clocks that will measure the time by sensing electrical currents in the clock.
This method, known as the phase-change technology, would allow the clock to switch off when the electrical current in the time-stamp circuit changes.
“This is really exciting.
The idea is to turn an ordinary LED on and turn it off in response to changes in the electric field,” said Michael Mottram, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Columbia University who was not involved in the research.
The team hopes to demonstrate the potential of LEDs in the future by turning them on in the lab, or making them “smart” by measuring the voltage changes when they are turned on or off.
“This could provide an application where the clock can be configured to make certain decisions about when it should be turned off,” Tisser said.
“I think the main thing is that the technology is quite new, and the goal is to prove it out in the real world,” Mottraum said.
The project is just the latest in a string of research projects that have shown how researchers have developed a new type of light-based light source that uses electricity to generate light.
There is already a number of projects using LED technology in the home.
The most well-known is the Philips Hue smart lighting system, which uses an array of light bulbs to turn on and dim the light in a room to control lighting.
But Philips said its bulbs do not have a time or frequency that can be measured, and its bulbs are not designed to be turned up and down.