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High-tech canopy helps generate solar power while providing shade

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A prototype of the “Sun&Shade” was just unveiled in Dubai

mirrored shading device Photos by Pietro Leoni courtesy of Carlo Ratti Associati

Imaginative architect and designer Carlo Ratti has had some bonkers ideas over the past year, including an exercise-powered gym barge and a mile-high skyscraper park. But his latest project is on the sunnier side of feasibility. Literally.

The Sun&Shade is a light-reflecting canopy made of mirrors that automatically rotate to catch the sun’s rays and fling them at a photovoltaic panel, “located a safe distance away.” This generates clean electricity up top while cooling the shaded area beneath. A working prototype of the mirrored structure just debuted at Dubai’s Museum of the Future as part of its “Reimagining Climate Change.”

Ratti claims local vernacular buildings served as the project’s muse: “In developing Sun&Shade we were inspired by the Middle Eastern tradition of shadowing in architecture and public space,” he says in the press release. “Sun&Shade aims to bring this concept to the next level, allowing shadowing to be digitally controlled.”

The position of each mirror can be independently set, effectively using them as individual pixels to control just how much shading is provided and even draw patterns or letters through the shadows they cast.

Rendering of a pattern cast by the Sun&Shade