I freely give this idea to the public domain, with the wish that if you ever create it and make money off it, you'll give one to me. Maybe I'll get around to making one, though.
Yesterday, Kris bought a lava lamp; I'll leave it to her to post a picture of it. It's very nice-looking, all filled with purple fluid and having bright yellow lava that darkens to orange as it floats to the top of the lamp. We were so taken with it that after gazing at it for about ten minutes in the living room, we decided to move it upstairs into the second bedroom (so it could sit on top of a dresser), and we slept in that room so that we could watch it late into the night. And we weren't even high!
So, anyway, that was the lead-in to my invention, whose actual date of origin is a few years ago. My idea is this: make a transparent, fluid-tight tank, say three feet wide, two feet tall, and a half-inch thick (I'm pretty sure that determining the exact thickness would be a matter of experimentation). The exact size and shape would be a matter of taste and asthetics, as you will see. On one side of the tank, mount a grid of LEDs such that it can make any color, like the LED wall at Burningman (but only as large as one side of the tank):
Photo used with permission by Benjamin Feen
Note that my panel would probably not have a naked girl in front of it. The LED panel would have the LEDs pressing on the outside of the tank, shining through it. The back of the LED panel would be flush against a wall. You might also want to interpose a sheet of something translucent between the LEDs and the fluid tank; this will diffuse the LEDs and disguise their discreet nature.
By itself, such an LED display thingy would make a perfectly awesome lighting fixture. But here's where it goes to 11. The tank is filled with two (or more?!?) immiscible fluids with similar or identical specific gravities, but different (as different as possible) indices of refraction. Along the bottom of the tank is some mild heating element, so that the fluids will get all convecty and move around a lot. As the light passes through it, you'd get lava-esque effects. You'd also want the LED panel to have moving blobs of color being displayed.
So, anyway, that's it! The original idea was a sort of 2-D planar lava lamp, but I think the LEDs being refracted through a couple different fluids would look better, and probably use less electricity. I was thinking last night that a circular thing would be cool, and maybe there could even be tiny and subtle pumps to agitate the fluids. Maybe LEDs mounted on the perimeter and shining in would look awesome. The variations are limitless!
Maybe also the LEDs could sense what the fluids were doing and act in some way based on that. There could be a thermometer that ensures that the heating elements are doing the right thing based on the ambient temperature (lava lamps are finnicky about what temp the room is). So much science that can be done! I found a source of really cheap LEDs
, and there is no shortage of tutorials on the Internet for making bunches of them do interesting things. I'm feeling upbeat about this.