A light hangs from the ceiling, but most of it isn’t a light at all.
This is the Cu-Beam Duo, the latest invention out of Dyson. It’s intended to be the commercial light of the future. Sipping on just 90W of power, it can shine light directly onto a table for your work, or directly onto the ceiling for a pleasantly diffused ambiance. Or it can do both at the same time in any mix that you like. And the Cu-Beam Duo can do it for a long time. The light is rated to operate for 22 years without changing the bulbs–the quality of light is promised to never waiver–which Dyson hopes will make the fixture appealing to airports, offices, and other big commercial spaces.
But the secret of the light is that most of it isn’t a light. Rather than loading the system with hundreds of LED lights as many commercial fixtures do, there are only two LEDs at its core (one for up light, and one for down light) fitted with lenses to spread the luminance. Granted, they’re pretty huge for LEDs–each is about the size of a quarter–but they represent only a fraction of the 28-inch fixture.
Instead, most of that fixture is actually giant heatsink built to cool the lights. And as its inventor Jake Dyson learned at his last company, cool LEDs can run for a very long time.
While James Dyson is famous for selling the world on a better vacuum and other motorized inventions, his eldest son, Jake Dyson, has spent the last decade obsessed with lighting. It led Jake to develop the CSYS LED task light, a desk lamp that promised to run 40 to 50 years using a stock LED, without fading or discoloring like many LEDs do.
Its secret was to use a heat pipe–a long copper tube filled with a single drop of water that evaporates and condenses continuously. Heat pipes are generally used to cool computer processors, but Jake realized that since LEDs are really just microchips too, the same technique could be applied to lighting. It worked. Heatpipes allowed the CSYS to run at a lower temperature, protecting the bulb from damaging itself.
As Jake puts it with a self-aware smile, before “generously” selling his small lighting studio to the multi-billion dollar Dyson in 2015, he’d been working on a new light. One that took the lessons of the CSYS and applied them to larger scale environments.
The Cu-Beam Duo represents the fruits of all that research. Rather than using a single heat pipe like the smaller CSYS, it uses six, which bloom from the central LEDs like a pair of pitchforks. They’re connected by metal blades, which increase surface area with the ambient air. In other words, a vast majority of the Cu-Beam Duo isn’t a light but a light-cooling device. Touching my finger to the back of the LED itself, and it feels almost imperceptibly warm, and it’s been running for hours.
Beyond the nerd quotient of this giant heatsink design, it means the Duo was designed as a light with a source you never really see (unless you get directly under it and look straight up). It’s neither a long fluorescent light panel, nor a bright halogen light in your field of view. “As we all know, office light is appalling, ghastly, suicidal,” Jake says in full embrace of this melodrama.
And the quality of the Duo’s light really is quite nice. Its down beam can be bright enough for surgery, according to Dyson, but I suspect more architects will appreciate the lamp’s internal shutters, which can crop the bream like a stage light to the exact width of a table or walkway with no spill. (The Duo uses “Richochet” technology–or what looks a lot like a reflective foil inside–to bounce this otherwise cropped light back up through the top when the user wants it.)
Its up beam was the real surprise, though. Bouncing off the ceiling, it created a soft, even glow that reminds me of a photographic lightbox. And with programmable sensors inside, the downbeam can turn itself off when no one is sitting at a table, leaving only the up beam to light the larger space. And it’s precisely this flexibility that could make the Duo appealing in ways that the previously announced Cu-Beam Up and and Cu-Beam Down–which only directed light one way–were not.
For now, Dyson is positioning the Duo at commercial enterprises, and it’s willing to adjust the spec for the needs of architects. For instance, the stock light puts out 8,500 lumens, but it can be fit with a 20,000 lumen LED and placed 30 feet in the air to maintain the same light output in different architectural installations. It comes in black, silver, and white, but Dyson showed off custom gold, copper, and metallic blue finishes, too.
“Just don’t order one,” says Global Specification Director Paul Gregory, referring to consumers who might imagine a single custom version hanging above the dining table. Indeed, the Duo hasn’t even been priced yet, but it clearly isn’t a product like the Dyson vacuum, meant to be sold to one customer at a time. It’s a workhorse product, intended for large-scale commercial buyouts.