Waste crop innovation boosts photovoltaics output

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In the Philippines, an engineering student has won the James Dyson Sustainability Award for an invention that turns waste crops into clean energy-generating building cladding. 

Carvey Ehren Maigue developed AuReus by extracting luminescent particles from waste agricultural crops and suspending them in resin to produce cladding for walls or layers between windows. The particles convert UV light into visible light, which is then reflected onto conventional solar cells on the outside borders of the materials. Maigue got the name and inspiration for AuReus from the aurora borealis phenomenon, in which the atmosphere absorbs UV rays and other particles and then re-emits them as light.  

“The light relies on internal reflectance of the material to self-correct and guide itself towards the emitting edge,” Maigue, who is a student at Manila’s Mapua University, tells dezeen. “This can be controlled by specific laser etching patterns as well.”

Unlike conventional solar panels that require direct sunlight and only generate power 15–22% of the time, AuReus works without the sun; it can catch UV rays that pass through clouds and generates power almost half of the day. AuReus also creates an opportunity for farmers increasingly impacted by climate change to monetize waste crops. 

“Combatting climate change is a journey that will need several generations to complete. This means great products alone would not suffice,” Maigue adds.  “In the conception of AuReus, I aimed to create a future-facing solution in the form of renewable energy and at the same time integrate a present-day value-creating solution for our farmers, who are being affected negatively by the present-day effects of climate change. In this way, we can show people that adapting sustainability to fight climate change is something that can benefit both the present and the future generation and in doing so, we can rally more people in this fight against climate change.”