Student - in Engineering, USMC 1341 E4

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An artificial sun / moon lighting system for inside gardens, that mimics a natural Circadian Rhythm.

There is something about the natural cycle of plant life that allows the Earth itself to grow plants with more grace and purpose, over an artificial environment. Well all know about it as the Circadian Rhythm.

I am creating an artificial environment for an indoor garden, and I am struggling with finding out an appropriate lighting system that is energy efficient and effective in growing vegetables. Right now, I simply turn the sun lamps and the moon lamps on and off at appropriate times. I thought – wouldn't this shock the plant, and take a lot of energy away from its growth cycle? This introduces the "shock" variable which I did not account for earlier.

I wanted to eliminate this shock variable, because it was too unpredictable. I don't have the means to measure the amount of shock a plant sustains. As a result, I drafted an idea to make my lighting more natural by following the Circadian Rhythm of the planet, based on a map of astronomical cycles programmed into a computer, controlling an artificial day and night sun / moon cycle using high pressure sodium lighting.

With this, I began to think further: Should I also mimic the humidity, temperature, and pressure changes during day and night cycles? When the artificial sun rises, should the temperature increase, and the humidity and air pressure decrease? When the artificial moon rises, should the opposite happen?

I hope to hear what interesting interpretations has on my idea. My name is Taylor, thank you for reading this.

  • Jun 22 2013: So, another idea.

    Maybe it's worth testing those optical tube lights and comparing them to an artificial form of sunlight that mimics the daily and nightly cycles. And then comparing that to a plant we grow in the open environment.

    I think it would be simple to set that up, too. One environment in which all of the elements are controlled to the best of our ability, using artificial light; one environment arranged in the same manner, using those optical tubes I saw in the link before; and one natural environment (or greenhouse, since that's a fantastic environment for a naturally growing plant; natural being defined as a plant that is subjected to the Earth's seasons and elements)
  • Jun 22 2013: So you want your garden to be isolated form the outside world, well, I still think for the lighting problem reflective optical tubing is a much better solution than artificial light, there are parts of the spectrum that plants need and I'm not sure artificial light can provide, besides converting light to electricity and then back to light is a very inefficient way of doing things. Sealing the tubes don't need to be a problem, just put a light refractor at the end of the tube and seal it with silicon, that will spread light throughout the room and won't bind people, also cover the outside with a transparent acrylic bowl or glass and also seal it with silicon. There are solutions available out there just research a lite bit. I would save the solar panels for the pumps, fans and all other stuff you're going to need.
    • Jun 22 2013: That's a good idea. Light is very easy to accumulate from natural resources, rather than putting through a conversion process.

      And the things that do need that conversion process, such as the pumps and heaters and fans, should be solar-powered. Brilliant!
    • Jun 22 2013: Update:

      There's a product out there called Solarspot, which is a natural form of lighting a home room using reflective tubing. But I really wonder how affective that might be in transferring the natural solar energy?
      • Jun 22 2013: I am sure there is data available on the product or similar from other brands that may help you to make an informed decision, but don't overlook optical fiber either. Maybe a specialized engineer can give you better advise, but if I were you and the light had to travel more than a few yards, or if due to the building's structure it had to make several turns I would rather use optical fiver. I'm sorry I don't have the reference, but I remember back in the 90's there was this Japanese guy who equipped his building with artificial sunflowers to drive sunlight to the basement, as far as I remember he said he had plants there and they grew better than in direct sun light because the optical fiver filtered the UV rays.
        • Jun 22 2013: That's an extremely good piece of information. I'll see if I can find a periodical on that.

          So the optic fibers filtered the UV rays, which are normally slightly harmful to plants just like they're harmful to us. Do you think that it would be any different with high pressure sodium during a flowering stage? High pressure sodium lamps are usually created specifically to emit little or no UV radiation.
  • Jun 21 2013: I just would like people to understand that when I challenge their ideas I am not saying that I disagree. I came to the TED community because I really don't know much about any of this and I really enjoy everyone's opinion and perspective!!

    Now that I said that, I'm going to go wash the brown stuff off my nose and happily await your replies. HA!
  • Jun 21 2013: As far as lamps go, you should consider using supplemental Blue and Red spectrums LEDs. The blue spectrum mimics vegetative stage, eg. the spring sun. The red mimics flowering stage eg. the fall sun. Using different spectrums for different times of the year would help to mimic natural light cycles. Also depending on the light needs of your plants you should consider Metal Halide lamps for veg and High Pressure Sodium for flowering. Personally, I believe you would be better off with a green house. One commonly overlooked input is CO2, which could be naturally supplied by animals such as hamsters and bunnies, or artificially by co2 tanks or distilled water w/ yeast and sugar.. And assuming you're growing organically, I would consider making a microbially active compost tea for regular fertilizing. I would suggest researching bioshelter greenhouses. Here's a link:
    Not to be a downer, but I don't believe you could truly mimic nature's cycles without some serious funds. One other thing to check out would be light movers, which if properly set up may mimic the natural movement of the sun.
    • Jun 21 2013: I don't think you are being a downer at all. Obviously it's going to be an artificial representation of what nature does. And I am also going to be collaborating with other degree programs at my school.

      The CO2 is a really great suggestion. What would be the benefits of delivering CO2 using live animals, versus the tanks, versus the water/yeast/sugar mixture?
      • Jun 22 2013: There would be no known benefits I know of for using animals versus CO2 tanks. I'd imagine both tanks and animals would be more stable CO2 output than the water/yeast/sugar mixture, though.Another benefit of animals is their body warmth helps to heat the indoor garden. Have you thought about what type of light you'd use to mimic the moon? Also have you thought about adding either passive or active ventilation?
        • Jun 22 2013: Right now we have active ventilation pumping carbon-filtered air from the outside in. The room is barely set up.

          The light I would us to mimic the moon's reflection of the sun's rays are whatever flowering lamps I choose, set at a level the mimics the moon's light level on a clear, full moon.

          It will be set on an equinox schedule - 12 hours day, 12 hours night.

          I can see how the animas would definitely affect the temperature and humidity of the indoor garden. I just worry about cost effectiveness and care for the animals.
    • Jun 21 2013: I would think that introducing animals would be too unpredictable, and you would really need to take sure care of those animals to make certain they don't get sick and therefore makes the vegetables sick.

      I would also imagine the yeast would probably introduce the risk of a yeast or bacterial infection, or mold.

      The CO2 tanks would probably be the best bet. Easily controlled, low maintenance.
  • Jun 21 2013: I don't think you need to include that much detail in your indoor garden unless your house has a whole different atmosphere than outside, which I doubt.
    Bet PLEASE let me know how that turns out, I would like to start my own hydroponics system myself, I just dont know what to do about lighting and temperatures for different plants and such. I want a vegetable/fruit/herbal type thing.
    • Jun 21 2013: You're right. It really isn't absolutely different than the outside. I would just like to control as many variables as I can so I can really pin-point what I can do to have an effective, sustainable, energy efficient, year round fresh vegetables with no inorganic ingredients involved in growing them.

      I will love to keep TED updated on it. Maybe I can also find some other ideas. I am engineering student right now and we collaborate with other degree programs. I am going to be working with the Botany program and Computer Technology program to get this done!
  • Jun 21 2013: Unless your garden was completely isolated from the outside world or you were trying to simulate the conditions of a different latitude I don't see the need for that much sophistication. If I were you I would try to take the outside conditions inside, with optical fiber or highly reflective tubes specially designed to drive sun light indoors your lighting problem might easily be solved, no need to pay for energy bills, pipes on the roof could drive rain water into the ceiling of your garden, properly located wind tubes could let wind in and out, and with it temperature, pressure and maybe humidity would be automatically controlled, no need for a computer, software etc.
    • Jun 21 2013: The only concern I have with that is I actually am trying to isolate this environment to eliminate any problems with critters and insects, outside fungi / bacteria / viruses that might kill the plant, etc.

      So, if I used reflective or optical tubing, how would I be able to air-seal it to eliminate outside variables from the natural environment - other than light / heat / humidity?

      Also, do you know anything bout solar panels? I was thinking of using solar panels with stationary batteries to power the light system. Would that be a viable, economic source of energy?