Eddy current-powered bike lights are back, and built into the brakes
It was a couple of years ago that New Atlas first tried out Magnic Light iC, a no-contact bike lighting system that doesn't involve batteries, tire-rubbing dynamos or wheel-mounted magnets. Now, inventor Dirk Strothmann is back with Magnic Microlights. Among other things, they have a more streamlined mounting system, plus they also serve as brake lights and turn indicators.
As is the case with Magnic Light iC, the Microlights system is powered by what are known as eddy currents. Basically speaking, these are electrical currents that are induced in a conductor, when that conductor is exposed to a changing magnetic field.
"Relative movements of magnets and neighbored conductive material induce eddy currents in the conductive material – in our case the metallic rim," Strothmann previously explained to us. "These eddy currents have their own magnetic fields which are absorbed by the Magnic Light generator kernel and by this way produce electric energy."
This means that the lights have to be located very close to the rims, which in turn must be metallic. An integrated capacitor temporarily keeps the lights illuminated when the wheel stops spinning.
In the existing iC system, the lights are mounted on the bike's brake posts via included adapters. The Microlights system does away with those adapters, by building the adjustable-angle head- and tail lights directly into Shimano-compatible brake shoes that replace those currently in use. It's less complex and cluttered-looking, plus the lights don't protrude from the bike as much.
Additionally, the lights increase in brightness when the brakes are applied. They also work as turn indicators. The latter function is activated by tapping either brake lever twice – tapping the left lever causes the left head- and tail light to flash (they communicate with one another via Bluetooth), while tapping the right lever causes the right-hand lights to flash.
If users wish, they can instead opt for automatic turn indicating. In this case, they first select a travel route on an accompanying smartphone app. The Microlights will subsequently start flashing on either side as turns approach, letting the cyclist know which way to go. As an added bonus, the lights are also able to relay the bike's current speed (based on wheel revolutions) to the app.
The Magnic Microlights system is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, where a pledge of €19 (about US$23) is required for a set of front or rear lights. A set of both can be had for €38 ($45), if everything works out according to plan – although if you act quickly on an introductory offer, you can get a full set for just €1.