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Little Sun and IKEA Collaborate to Bring Solar Power to Homes and Hands

How can solar energy be made more palpable and real in daily life? When IKEA and Little Sun created SAMMANLNKAD, two LED lamps fueled by solar energy in multiple ways, they sought to provide answers to some of these issues. We talked to Philipp Käfer, a designer, and Philip Holm, an engineer, to find out how it appears in the striking SAMMANLNKAD table lamp.

The sun, a hot, brilliant ball of hydrogen and helium, is approximately 150 million kilometers away and provides energy necessary for most life on our planet. In the last few thousand years, humanity has also learned to harness energy, from the once-simple methods of concentrating sunrays for lighting fires to the sophisticated technologies that today transform sunlight into a rapidly expanding renewable energy source.

The latter conjures images of enormous industrial fields or roof-mounted solar panels that connect directly to the grid. But solar energy also frequently makes minor appearances in people's daily lives. For instance, a little solar calculator set up for a math test or a small solar lamp beautifying a garden.

The two most prevalent methods of utilizing solar energy, in my opinion, are large solar panels and little solar lamps. According to Philipp Käfer, designer for Little Sun, "many people don't really have a true feeling or understanding for the potential to use it at a medium level, where it may make a real impact in their everyday life, yet.

This is something that Little Sun and IKEA's partnership aimed to change by combining the former's work as a social enterprise at the nexus of design and technology with the latter's expertise in home furnishings - and drawing on the vision of Little Sun co-founder and artist Olafur Eliasson to make solar energy tangible through art and science.

The outcome? SAMMANLNKAD is a pair of solar-powered LED lamps that artistically bring a portion of the sun to earth in order to pique interest in solar energy in commonplace products.

IKEA's Little Sun and a solar lamp with a star attraction

With the SAMMANLNKAD table lamp, the goal was to visually enhance the home with a piece of our solar system through the use of a gyroscope design.

It contains heliocentric energy, and the world orbits it in the first gyroscope ring at a 23.5-degree angle from the sun, which is the axis of the earth. "We wanted to bring the solar energy to the house, to portray it in a poetic way for people to literally experience this energy floating in their home," Philipp continues, noting that the light, which is a half-ball, is completed by a mirror to form a whole ball, like the sun at its center.

Much of that power is contained in the mirror. In the end, it serves three purposes: it completes the sphere, somewhat increases light power due to its reflective surface, and visually separates the sphere from the lamp stand. The gyroscope's design serves as an enabler, with all of them giving a stronger reference to the idea of the sun floating in space. The SAMMANLNKAD table lamp can also be used as a pendant lamp, thus it could very well float in the house in a similar manner.

According to Philipp, the technical specifications of the lamp were also crucial to the design process. "The gyroscope also enables the opportunity to orient the solar panel straight to the sun, so it can be charged efficiently," he explains.

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