Student Makes Renewable Energy From Rotting Vegetables, Wins Award

Student Makes Renewable Energy From Rotting Vegetables, Wins Award

The AuREUS system, inspired by the Northern Lights, absorbs UV rays from the sun before remitting them to create renewable energy.

Image source: YouTube/Dyson

A student has found a way to harness renewable energy from rotting vegetables. Carvey Ehren Maigue, 27, created a novel material that absorbs stray UV light from the sun and converts it into renewable energy. The idea has won a sustainability award in this year's James Dyson awards. The AuREUS system created by Maigue draws from the natural scientific principles behind the Northern Lights. Maigue is a student at Mapúa University in the Philippines. His idea was selected from 1,800 submissions for the award.

Maigue's idea stood out because he created a novel material that increases the generation of electricity when compared to solar panels and by substantially larger amounts. Aureus is made from crop waste and the material can be attached in panels on windows and walls. It can also generate renewable energy when it's not sunny, which is one of its unique features. The material, which has luminescent particles derived from fruit and vegetables, absorbs high-energy photons from the sun before re-emitting them as visible light.


While solar panels only function when directly facing the sun, the Aureus system can generate electricity even when it's not facing the sun, or when it's cloudy. The material picks up UV through clouds, bouncing from walls, pavements, and other buildings. The uniqueness of the material is that it can produce energy nearly half of the time, whereas solar panels only produce 15-25 percent of the time now. Maigue's core idea centered around retrieving luminescent particles found in some food waste and trapping them in a resin substrate. They are then capable of absorbing and reflecting light when hit by UV light. The reflections of the visible light are concentrated to the edges of the panels, where PV cells capture them to convert to DC electricity. It's this idea that's behind Borealis Solar Window and Astralis Solar Wall, the two systems of AuREUS.


"We can create curved panels, more intricate shapes for the walls, or the design they want without suffering lesser efficiency," said Maigue, reported My Modern Met. He says people can opt for colorful panels to absorb and re-emit light. "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," added Maigue.

James Dyson awards noted the system provides "better access to solar energy for climate change mitigation and supporting the local agriculture industry hit by calamities by upcycling crops that would otherwise be considered wastes thus, mitigating farmer loss." Maigue hopes he can make vertical solar farms by cladding the material AuREUS on all sides of glass buildings in urban spaces. "The inspiration for the solution came from how Auroras were made. High energy(gamma, UV) is degraded to a low energy state (visible light) by luminescent particles in the atmosphere. The tech is based on this concept and used similar functioning particles," he said. 



The initial version of his system proved too costly, and Maigue was forced to re-evaluate the whole process and come up with a better solution. Maigue eventually got there and is hoping it can help carve a path to a more sustainable future. "Winning the James Dyson Award is both a beginning and an end. It marked the end of years of doubting whether my idea would find global relevance. I want to create a better form of renewable energy that uses the world’s natural resources, is close to people’s lives, forging achievable paths towards a sustainable and regenerative future," said Maigue, reported The Guardian. His idea received £30,000 ($41,520) in cash prize for the award.


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