Innovative solar panels made from food waste generate energy without sunlight

[July 18, 2022: Chris Young]

A solar film converts visible light into energy. (CREDIT: James Dyson Foundation)

Solar panels are a cornerstone of the clean energy revolution. And yet, they have one great flaw: when the clouds roll in their productivity dives.

Now, a new type of solar panel has been developed by an electrical engineering student at Mapua University that harvests the unseen ultraviolet light from the sun that makes it through even dense cloud coverage.


Carvey Ehren Maigue, who won the James Dyson Sustainability Award for his creation, hopes it will soon be used on the windows and walls of large buildings, turning them into constant sources of energy.

Solar panels that don't rely on visible sunlight

The concept, called AuREUS (which stands for Aurora Renewable Energy and UV Sequestration), uses luminescent particles from fruit and vegetable waste that absorb UV light and convert it into visible light. A solar film then converts that visible light into energy.


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Maigue says the system could be applied to entire buildings such as the Montreal Convention Centre. (CREDIT: James Dyson Foundation)

"It’s similar to how we breathe in oxygen and we exhale carbon dioxide," Maigue said. "It takes in ultraviolet light, and then after some time it would shed it as visible light."


Maigue's prototype for AuREUS is a single 3-by-2-foot lime gree-tinted panel that he installed in the window in his apartment. In his demonstration for the James Dyson Award, he showed that his test panel can generate enough electricity to charge two phones per day.

The material is made using waste agricultural crops

Scaled up, Maigue says these panels would enable buildings to run entirely on their own electricity.


Democratizing renewable energy

The creator also says the flexibility of the material — the resin can even be applied to fabric for clothing — allows designers to use the panels in a variety of different, innovative designs that could help more people to understand and adopt renewable energy solutions.

Carvey Ehren Maigue holding up one of his prototype panels. (CREDIT: James Dyson Foundation)

"If we can democratize renewable energy, we can bring it both physically closer to people as well as psychologically closer," Maigue explained. "It would give them a sense of access to it, that they are closer to it, that they don’t have to be large institutions that have the capability to harvest solar energy with their rooftops."


Maigue's next step is to develop his first building installation of AuREUS at a small medical clinic on the island of Jomalig, off the Philippine mainland, that is frequently left without power during storms.

For more environmental news stories check out our Green Impact section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by Chris Young. Content may be edited for style and length.


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