These Solar Panels Are Made from Plant Waste

published Jan 18, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Solar panels at the Montreal Convention Center

With green energy initiatives on the rise, many homeowners and business owners are making the switch to solar. But one engineering student at Mapua University in Manila, Philippines, has designed a solar panel unlike those installed on the roofs of houses and corporate buildings. His panels are made entirely from plant waste, yet are still able to generate clean energy from ultraviolet light.

Carvey Ehren Maigue, the brain behind the AuREUS solar panel, is the first-ever James Dyson Award global sustainability winner for his work with solar energy. The AuREUS panel he designed is completely translucent and works by harvesting UV rays that pass through the clouds and bounce off surrounding structures and pavement when adhered to a sun-facing window. Preliminary testing shows that the AuREUS panel produces energy 50 oercent of the time it’s in service whereas traditional solar panels only produce energy 15 to 22 percent of the time.

AuREUS panels work by using luminescent particles derived from waste crops through the process of crushing, juice extraction, and filtration, to absorb high energy particles in ultraviolet and gamma rays. The particles are suspended in a moldable resin that can be installed as cladding or between two panes of a double glazed window. The panels then degrade the energy particles and reemit them as light, which can be captured and converted into electricity via photovoltaic (PV) cells and can either be stored or used immediately.

“In that way, it can be directly used as a stand-alone or can be connected in groups to produce a higher output,” Maigue told Dezeen. “It can also be easily integrated into existing solar photovoltaic systems since its electrical output is suitable for such systems as well.”

“We need to [utilize] our resources more and create systems that don’t deplete our current resources,” Maigue told Dyson upon winning the James Dyson Award. “While AuREUS aims to generate electricity from natural resources, I also want to show that, even if we want to become more sustainable, it’s not only the future generation that would benefit, but also us, the present generation.”

He continued, “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.” Both future generations and current farmers suffering the blows of climate change benefit when AuREUS is employed.

Maigue hopes to take his technology and turn it into threads that can be worked into fabrics and curved plates that can be adhered to vehicles and other modes of transportation.