The cutting edge technologies developed by SolarOasis often lead to innovation in diverse fields. On this page we spotlight the creative ways others are pushing the boundaries of science using SolarOasis technology.

Oregon State University student David Dickson uses products from SolarOasis, to grow cyanobacteria in his research

David explains, "I am using an array of 12 SolarOasis bars to grow cyanobacteria for research purposes. While directly comparing growth under these lights to growth under more conventional white light sources has proven somewhat challenging, these lights are definitely effective at providing increased excitation energy to these organisms. They are growing extremely well and up to very high density, which has enabled a step forward in my research."

Virginia Tech develops the next generation in thermogradient tables, which incorporates products from SolarOasis

Virginia Tech thermogradient table, exterior view Virginia Tech thermogradient table, interior view

LED lights are used to illuminate a thermogradient table developed at Virginia Tech by Dr. Greg Welbaum. Applications include observing biological growth over a broad range of temperatures, screening plants and other organisms for low and high temperature tolerance, and characterizing insect migration patterns at different temperatures. Dr. Welbaum uses his thermogradient table to evaluate seed germination and seedling growth at many different temperatures simultaneously. LED lights work very well for this application because they give off little heat and use very little power compared to conventional lights.

Virginia Tech thermogradient table, interior view Virginia Tech thermogradient table, instrumentation

An experimental greenhouse hydroponic system at Alfred State College, using SolarOasis lighting, provides fresh lettuce for campus dining services year-round.

Hydroponics System at Alfred State College: New Ideas Sprouting Up Everywhere

ALFRED, NY, April 2008 — There may be snow on the ground and a nip in the air, but the cropping season is well underway at Alfred State College. Thanks to new greenhouse and lighting technologies, the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Technology, located in the central Southern Tier, is growing vegetables year-round.

Conventional greenhouse technologies are already widely used in Western New York; thus, Alfred State is focused on how greenhouse systems can be made more sustainable, using new growing technologies.

There are many methods of hydroponic production, including growing the plants in solid media such as peat moss, perlite, or even sand. These media, which are lighter and less buffered than soil, allow growers to quickly and directly deliver nutrients to their crops.

Student attending crop at Alfred State College

In the collegeís greenhouse, hydroponics is being used for dynamic root growth. The plants are grown in polypropylene tubes which have thin streams of nutrients running through them – a technique known as Nutrient Film Technology. The results are remarkable: for example, full lettuce heads are ready for harvest one month after planting.

The hydroponic vegetable production is overseen by Dr. Matthew Harbur, ASC assistant professor, Agriculture and Horticulture Department. This project is just one of many exciting initiatives underway at the collegeís new Center for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture (COSA).

Harbur and Alfred State students are currently growing lettuce in the greenhouse, which includes red and green Summer Crisp, Oak Leaf, red and green Romaine, and Lollo lettuce. Other crops include herbs, edible flowers, other salad greens, and tomatoes. Volume will further increase as additional greenhouse models are constructed later this year. The greenhouse hydroponics system promotes a more sustainable food culture and local food production. The varieties of lettuce being grown now are provided by Johnnyís Select Seeds from Maine.

The development of an LED (light–emitting diode) light system for the greenhouse sparked Harburís interest in a hydroponics system. The lights use far less energy than pressure sodium lights and there are no hazardous issues of florescent lights. The LED lights are used to supplement the winter sunshine, which alone is too weak to support rapid vegetable growth. The first lettuce crop from the greenhouse was sold to ACES (Auxiliary Campus Enterprises and Services – the campus dining and vending operation) to be used in the Central Dining Hall to feed ASC students. Soon ASC students will harvest 30 heads a day, which is roughly 20-30 pounds of lettuce per week.

"Many people think growing with hydroponics isnít as sustainable as growing plants in soil, but it reduces the greenhouse space that must be heated and lit, and increases the competitiveness of local vegetables with imported foods," says Harbur, who also serves as director of COSA. He added, "There are a lot of advantages with hydroponics: less footage required per pound of food produced and, in our system, the ability to grow additional plants below our hydroponic system."

Kathleen M. Bayus
Office of Communications
TA Parish Hall
Alfred State College
Alfred, NY 14802
P: (607) 587-4228
F: (607) 587-3290

Thermogradient Systems to begin commercial production of thermogradient table developed at Virginia Tech, which incorporates products from SolarOasis. Click here to view Dr. Welbaum's product presentation slideshow.

LED-illuminated One Dimensional programmable thermogradient table

LED-illuminated One Dimensional programmable thermogradient table.

LED lights facilitate experiments over wide temperature range

LED grow lights emit in the photosynthetic spectrum allowing temperature experiments to be conducted over a wide range of temperatures from 0 to 50 degrees C.

The polymer case does not warp or distort like wood

The polymer case does not warp or distort like wood and is water resistant.

LED lights do not affect thermal gradient

LED lights emit very little heat and do not affect the thermal gradient on the plate surface.

Thermogradient tables have many potential uses

Thermogradient tables are often used by the seed industry for germination testing in paper towels and plastic boxes but there are many other potential uses as well.

LED lights allow use as a growth chamber

LED lights can provide sufficient light intensity to grow seedlings and thus can be used like a growth chamber.

Thermogradient tables can screen for temperature tolerance

Thermogradient tables can be used to screen cultures and plants for temperature tolerance.

Brookfield Engineering baths cool below 0 degrees C and can be programmed for alternating temperatures

Brookfield Engineering baths cool below 0 degrees C and can be programmed for alternating temperatures.

A thermogradient table is well suited for Petri plate experiments at different temperatures

A thermogradient table is well suited for Petri plate experiments at different temperatures.

Thermogradient tables are portable

Thermogradient tables are portable and can be placed on tables or temporary supporting structures and moved by the handles attached to the unit.

Other uses of thermogradient tables:

For more information and price quotes contact:

Architects Murphy Burnham & Buttrick of New York, New York, were awarded a 2009 Design Award of Excellence by the Society of American Registered Architects/NY for their renovation of St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's School science facility. Their award winning design included greenhouse grow lighting from SolarOasis. Click here to visit Murphy Burnham & Buttrick's web site.

St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's greenhouse

As part of the science facility renovation at St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's School in New York, New York, architects Murphy Burnham & Buttrick included greenhouse grow lighting from SolarOasis. The safety of low voltage LED grow lighting allows students to grow cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, and other fruits and vegetables utilizing state of the art controls and equipment. The resulting vegetable crop is then served in the cafeteria salad bar. St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's greenhouse offers first hand experience in farm-to-table food production which is part of the school's mission of providing only food from local, family owned sources.

SolarOasis engineers met with members of the Biosphere Foundation about the Mars on Earth project. The Biosphere foundation was an early commercial adopter of SolarOasis technology. Click here to see a list of other Biosphere Mars on Earth project sponsors.

SolarOasis met with members of the Biosphere Foundation team in July, 2005, in Santa Fe, New Mexio, to discuss their plans to incorporate a custom-engineered SolarOasis light grid into their Mars on Earth project tests. The light grid was designed to replace several thousand watts of high pressure sodium (HPS) lighting in experiments growing soybeans and other crop plants in a closed environment to simulate possible food production techniques for use on a manned mission to Mars. Included in the discussions were Abigail Alling, Mark Van Thillo, John Allen (inventor of the original Biosphere), and William Dempster. Click here to learn more about the original Biosphere project.

Light array engineered for the Biosphere Foundation, set up in the SolarOasis labs
SolarOasis engineering meets with members of the Biosphere Foundation, in Santa Fe, New Mexico

SolarOasis engineers meet with members of the Biosphere Foundation team. From left - Will Anderson (SolarOasis), William Dempster (Biosphere Foundation), Larry Capen (SolarOasis), and Mark Van Thillo (Biosphere Foundation). Photo courtesy Abigail Alling (Biosphere Foundation)

SolarOasis technology is used in many classrooms, from Elementary to High School, to investigate the ways light affects living organisms. Here are examples of the creative ways SolarOasis technology is being used in education.

Matthew, a sophomore at Darien High School in Connecticut, uses the Aqua-Bar Pro from SolarOasis, in his independent research project on how light affects growth in reef aquaria.

Green Star Polyp

Working with a 75 gallon reef aquarium, conventional T-5 lighting, and the Aqua-Bar Pro from SolarOasis, Matthew got quick results growing various types of reef organisms.

"The new shippment of coral is doing really well, and things are already splitting!…All of the the new SPS (Small Polyped Sclerectinia) purple digitata is still living from 20" deep all the way to 4 inches under the most direct light in the tank. Very promising!"

75 gallon reef tank Zoanthids, "the tiny flowers of the reef"

Looking to expand on his current research by using multiple reef tanks, each with its own lighting, Matthew notes that, "As the school year comes to a close, I am thinking about trying to get some materials together for next year. I will officially make it an independent research project for school credit and write up a proposal and get a set-up for next year. I have…a supplier of coral and other saltwater livestock and he said he would be able to help me get a bare bones set-up to use for testing. The set-up I will do for the next set will be much better and controlled to test individual coral growth."

Black and white clownfish in anemone, no flash Black and white clownfish in anemone, with flash

The test setup Matthew envisions presents some lighting challenges:

"The setup will include three 20-25 gallon tanks… and they will all be attached to one 40 gallon filter sump and sump pump to power them all. They would be next to each other, but certain walls of the tank would be painted glass to stop light from filtering from tank to tank. They would all use the same water and only have sand and plastic egg crate shelves to hold and filter the tanks. One tank could hold the appropriate amount of LED bars on top, one would hold a traditional high power T-5 bulb as a control, and I would like to have another light variable, but the only other light that can support all types of coral is traditional metal halides, and installing a metal halide would be the best control, but I don't have the money to get a chiller to cool the tank, as they produce too much heat."

Matt, who attends Darien High School in Connecticut, took second place in a local science fair for his work on the effect of LED lighting on corals and other reef organisms. For his experiments Matt used the Aqua-Bar Pro from SolarOasis.

Matt's science fair display Matt (left) with the science fair's main judge

Matt describes his experience presenting his research into the effect of LED lighting on reef organisms, in which he used the Aqua-Bar Pro from SolarOasis:

"After many months of testing in my school with the Aqua-bar and a full week spending hours to prepare a tri-fold presentation poster board, I finally presented today at Norwalk Community College today in their annual science fair for high school students from all over Connecticut. Out of over 75 projects, I presented to over 10 different judges and managed to win second place! I have attached two pictures, one of my tri-fold poster board and another of the main judge and me with my poster board after winning second (with my medal). My mentor and school science department are very excited that I did so well on my first science fair and I hope to submit my project in another fair in the near future. I have the text documents and charts in a word and excel document if you are interested in anything on my poster. Thank you SolarOasis. I hope I can expand upon my research next year to make something really special."
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