A student innovator from the Philippines has turned a major problem in his country — food crops destroyed by climate change — into a surprising concept for sustainable power generation. Carvey Ehren Maigue has recently won the very first James Dyson Sustainability Award for AuREUS System Technology: Clear plastic panels, which can be made into windows or building cladding, that use embedded luminescent particles derived from food to harvest UV light and convert it to electricity. The invention is part-solar-panel, and part-aurora-borealis — Maigue was inspired by that natural phenomenon, which features sensitive particles which absorb energy and emit it as visible light.
I often find, with sustainable innovations, that they’re only sustainable in one way, or address only one part of a many-sided issue (paper drinking straws, anyone?) But, by incorporating waste crops as raw material for his solar panels, Maigue effectively doubles AuREUS’s beneficial impact on the environment! As the inventor himself puts it:
“We need to utilise our resources more and create systems that don’t deplete our current resources. […] With AuREUS, we upcycle the crops of the farmers that were hit by natural disasters, such as typhoons, which also happen to be an effect of climate change. By doing this, we can be both future-looking, and solve the problems that we are currently experiencing now.”
The bioluminescent particles are collected from the damaged crops by pulverizing them and straining the resultant slurry. The particles are then suspended in clear resin, which is then formed into approximately three-foot by two-foot panels. Maigue envisions future panels that are curved, or come in a variety of colours — no more “solar panels are too ugly” NIMBYism here! Eventually, he hopes his R&D yields threads and fabrics based on this technology. While I’d love a solar-panel sweater, made from recycled food no less, I’d be more than thrilled to start with some swanky windows! Isn’t the future bright — in more ways than one?