A new solar light by Dutch designer Marjan van Aubel combines sustainability, technology and design to evoke the sun’s glow in an interior setting. It’s ‘a light mimicking the sun and powered by the sun’, she says.

Dubbing herself a ‘solar designer’, van Aubel works to promote energy efficiency through intelligent design. In 2015, she won the London Design Medal for Emerging Talent and has since collaborated with brands and institutions on research-based projects. Her ‘Sunne’ light employs technology developed in collaboration with Dutch energy research centre ECN.TNO. 

Sunne light by Marjan Van Aubel

A solar light and the path to solar democracy

‘I believe in solar democracy: solar energy for everyone, everywhere,’ says the designer, whose goal was to make solar power accessible and part of everyday routines with a lamp that fits into the domestic space. 

At first glance, her design couldn’t be simpler: an elongated panel designed to hang on a window and capture sunlight during the day. Behind the scenes, a pattern of solar cells captures sunlight and recreates its intensity with three settings – ‘rise’, ‘light’ and ‘set’. 

Solar light by Marjan Van Aubel

The solar lamp, van Aubel explains, is inspired by the sun itself and the energy it provides. ‘We are receiving all this constant sunlight, but are not harvesting it (yet). I wanted to create an object that is autonomous and would power itself using the energy of the sun,’ she says. Her piece of solar design is shaped like the horizon. ‘The moment the sun goes down, the light in Sunne will start to glow. I love this moment where we can see the last bit of the sun before it sinks down under the horizon and that is what you can see in the light – imitating different states of the sun during one full day.’

Solar light by Marjan Van Aubel

The design process was defined by the technology concealed within the piece. van Aubel and her team had to find a balance between an aesthetically pleasing shape and a surface wide enough to fit the requisite solar cells for the lamp to function effectively. ‘What I like is that some technical elements can have a double function,’ says van Aubel. ‘For example, instead of adding a light sensor that reads when it is getting dark, the solar cell itself can work as a sensor.’

The ‘Sunne’ lamp is the first in a range of solar-powered products for the home that van Aubel is developing. Noting how solar energy is the most widely available energy source on Earth, she wants to find new design solutions to harness it, working with the available technology. ‘My view on solar energy is that it needs an update,’ she says. ‘I think that in the future all products should generate their own energy, and as designers it is our responsibility to build products or buildings for this future. My mission is to make this energy accessible for everyone, everywhere.’ §