The sun sustains life. It gives energy to organisms and plants. But what if we could harness sunlight to turn it into energy for electricity. Solar power has become a lot more common, with many people opting to use solar panels on their houses. But now new technologies are finding solutions to implement this in different ways. Carvey Ehren Maigue has created the Aureus system which turns waste crops into a window like cladding that uses ultraviolet light to generate clean energy.


The translucent Aureus is attached in panels to windows and walls, where light is most abundant. Turning whole buildings into sympathetic solar farms, without the need for extra infrastructure. The inspiration for the project came from Auras, where high energy gamma UV are degraded to low luminescent particles in the atmosphere. The panels allow high energy photons to be absorbed by luminescent particles derived from fruit and vegetables. These then re-emit them as visible light. But these are a little different to normal solar panels, as they are able to work even if not directly facing the sun. Instead UV light can be picked up through clouds, and can even be captured after bouncing from walls and pavements. This then means that the panels produce energy 50% of the time, compared to 15-22% of a standard solar panel. Also, in urban settings there is a large amount of excess UV, which could be used for energy. 


By using waste crops not only are the panels made from natural materials, but they utilise a waste material. The crops used are sourced from farmers in the Philippines who have been affected by climate change. The agricultural sector in the country makes up a quarter of its population’s employment. But extreme weather events have meant that the industry has suffered from the loss of more than six million hectares of crops between 2006 and 2013, worth around $3.8 billion. But these rotting crops are repurposed to make the material. This then creates an income stream from crops that would otherwise be thrown away and create a loss. 


The Aurora Borealis is created from luminescent particles in the atmosphere that absorb high energy particles like ultraviolet or gamma rays, before degrading and reemitting them as visible light. In a similar way this innovation uses luminescent particles from agricultural waste. To extract those particles different fruits and vegetables are crushed before being filtered, distilled or steeped. The extracted particles convert UV light into visible light, this then travels to the very edge of the panel. By laser etching patterns into the material sheets the light has internal reflectance in the material to guide it towards the right edge. Once at its destination this visible light is converted into electricity through  photovoltaic (PV) cells, which can be used immediately or stored. The particles are suspended in a material that can be moulded into any shape, but is perfect for cladding which can be attached to walls or even fitted between two glass panes in double glazed windows. But Maigue envisions a future where this technology is turned into threads to create fabrics and shapes to be fitted onto vehicles. 

The Aureus project has recently been given the James Dyson Sustainability Award, a new award that began this year. The prize is £30,000 to develop the invention, and the main James Dyson Award prize, which is awarded every year, was given to Judit Giró Benet for her design of a low-cost biomedical device that can be used at home to detect breast cancer, harnessing artificial intelligence to analyse urine.

Carvey Ehren Maigue
James Dyson Awards