IKEA has partnered with Little Sun – the social business co-founded by artist Olafur Eliasson – on small domestic solar panels that store energy to provide light and power, and inspire action on climate change.
Currently in prototype stage, Sammanlänkad comprises a set of solar energy stores and the structures to hold them so that they can function as table and ceiling lights in the home, or be used as charging docks.
The rechargeable energy stores, or batteries, are circular domes about the size of a human hand.
The project intends a solar panel to be hung in a window of a home during daylight hours. This will store energy for use in the evening as a light source, or to charge small electronic devices such as laptops or phones.
Eliasson hopes that harvesting solar power at home will encourage people to think about their energy usage, and give them "a voice, agency and the power" to help in the fight against climate change.
"At this point we all know roughly what sustainability is, but how do we go from knowing to doing?" said Eliasson, in a talk to introduce the project during Democratic Design Days at the IKEA headquarters in Älmhult, Sweden.
"The thing that I think art is capable of is inspiring people, and giving them the mandate to say 'I'm not just going to be a consumer, I'm also going to be a co-producer, I'm going to be a part of this movement and I'm going to do something myself, even on a tiny microscopic level'," Eliasson continued.
Alongside the energy stores themselves, Eliasson has worked with IKEA on the design of a series of delicate metal structures to contain the batteries and allow them to be used as lights in the home.
Each structure features a number of interlocking metal spheres that form orbits around the battery, with the light source glowing from within. They are intended to be used both inside and outdoors.
Eliasson hopes that Sammanlänkad will also change peoples negative attitudes about the appearance of solar panels.
"One of the challenges is that we need to repurpose the experience of solar panels as a cool piece of technology. A charged battery is money in the bank, so it needs to look like a resource rather than something ugly and unattractive," he explained.
As well as reframing energy as a precious resource that we shouldn't take for granted, Sammanlänkad can provide a source of light in areas of the world that are not connected to the grid, or during a power cut.
The collection is a response to IKEA's research through countless homes visits that found that there is a global shift in attitudes towards sustainable consumption at this point in time.
"We can see that the change right now is enormous. There are a lot of questions and an understanding of the fact that our wellbeing is connected to the idea of sustainable consumption," said IKEA's head of sustainability, Lena Pripp-Kovac.
"How you express it or tackle it, or even whether you have the strength to address it, differs a lot depending on where you are in the world."
Little Sun is a socially conscious business founded by Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen to bring sustainable, reliable, and affordable light and energy solutions to communities worldwide. It aims especially to reach those living without regular access to electricity.
The company's own original hand-held solar power station is a yellow device in the shape of the sun that stores solar energy and shines a bright beam from a central lamp. They have since developed further designs, including the Little Sun Diamond.
"The collaboration with IKEA is about working on a larger scale to make it tangible and explicit how it feels to hold hands with the sun," said Eliasson.
"Sustainability is a foot in the door to hedonism. It's not the end of everything we know. It's fun, it's emotional, it's about trust and it's about saying I actually care about the animals, the plants, biodiversity, not just the atmosphere and carbon."
The Icelandic-Danish artist has produced a number of works of art that invite the public to reflect on humanity's effect on the earth. Last year, he installed a series of 30 glacial icebergs in front of London's Tate Modern gallery and the Bloomberg headquarters.
Sammanlänkad will be released in all IKEA's global markets in 2021.