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Technology

Light ideas promote easy sleeping

By Julie Clothier for CNN

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Rachel Wingfield's work mixes science and art.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Imagine a duvet cover and pillow that gradually light up as you wake up in the morning.

Or how about a lamp where a plant "grows" on the side of it as it slowly gets brighter, or wallpaper whereby a print appears as the volume in the room increases?

They might sound far-fetched but these are just some of the ideas that London-based artist Rachel Wingfield has turned into reality.

The 26-year-old was recently named by UK magazine Marie Claire as one of 40 women under 40 to watch in 2005.

Her work first attracted attention in 2002 when she was a finalist in mobile phone company Orange's House of the Future installation, which showcased experimental, smart products, including Wingfield's "Light Sleeper" pillow and duvet.

The Light Sleeper works feature electroluminescent panels, made from metal wire with phosphor coating, which act as light reflectors.

Inside the cotton wadding of both the duvet and pillow is a tiny chip, which is programmed to communicate with an alarm clock.

When the alarm is due to go off, the clock signals to the duvet and pillow to activate the panels, and the fabric gradually gets brighter over 10 minutes, giving the body a gentle wake up call so that it has time to adjust naturally.

The products are battery-operated and have a small charger tucked inside. The power source is rechargeable in much the same way as a mobile phone.

Wingfield told CNN she was interested in what effects light levels and color have on people.

Her work looks at integrating light sources into fabric and she creates and develops new and reactive surfaces, giving ordinary objects unique properties.

She has conducted research into seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and believes her creations could help sufferers of the condition.

Wingfield is currently in talks with St. Thomas's Hospital in London about conducting research into the physiological benefits of Light Sleeper, including whether the products help increase the level of the feel-good hormone serotonin.

She and her partner, Mathias Gmachl, have started their own company, Loop.pH, and hope to sell Wingfield's products commercially.

They have worked with London-based company Elumin8, which has conducted much of the research and development to make the technology used in Wingfield's creations possible.

She said her work combined art with science.

Her "Digital Dawn" lamp features prints of foliage, which appear to grow as the light gets brighter over time.

"It is a reactive textile that grows in luminosity in response to its surroundings. It digitally emulates the process of photosynthesis using electroluminescent printing technology," Wingfield said.

Her "Walls With Ears" installation comes to life as it reacts to ambient noise levels -- the louder the space, the brighter the wallpaper glows.

Wingfield is currently teaching part-time at Camberwell College of Arts in London and will take up a post as research fellow at Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design, also in London, next month.


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