Solar energy is often criticized for its reliability: should we go without electricity when the sun is not shining? To respond to this problem, a new technology has been invented: solar panels that do not need direct sunlight. A leap forward for renewable energy.
A Filipino engineering student designed this revolutionary material using luminescent particles from fruit and vegetable waste.
Carvey Ehren Maigue29, won the award James Dyson Foundation Sustainability Award in 2020 for its panels, built at the University of Mapua, in the Philippines.
As inside the cultures, these particles absorb the ultraviolet rays of the sun and transform them into visible light. The panels then convert the harvested light into electricity.
Ultraviolet rays also reach us on cloudy days. This technology therefore has immense potential in urban areas, as well as in other places where a conventional solar panel could not be installed.
Inspired by the Northern Lights and called AuREUSthe particles are placed in a resin surface that can be molded into different shapes.
The new solar material could even be adapted to our clothes.
Maigue said in 2020 that he wanted to bring the product to market immediately, while continuing to invest in new research.
“I want to create yarns and fabrics so that even your clothes are able to harvest ultraviolet light and convert it into electricity.”
The prototype, a three-by-two-foot (90 by 60 centimeters) panel installed in a window in Maigue’s apartment generated enough electricity to charge two phones each day. But it aims to cover entire buildings with AuREUS, turning them into vertical solar farms.
Even if not facing the sun, skyscrapers with this exterior could absorb UV bouncing off walls, sidewalks and other buildings.
“We also plan to create curved plates, which could be used on electric cars, planes and even boats.“, he told the Foundation Dyson.
The electrical engineering student added that he wanted to democratize his new product. “AuREUS has the potential to bring solar energy capture closer to people“, did he declare.
“In the same way that computers were only used by the government or the military and today the same technology is in our smartphones, I want solar energy capture to be more accessible.”
Renewable energy from agricultural waste
“We recycle crops from farmers who have been affected by natural disasters, such as typhoons, which are also an effect of climate change”explains the young inventor.
Out of 78 types of local crops tested, nine showed strong potential. They are crushed, pressed and filtered to extract the luminescent particles, which are then suspended in a resin.
The resulting material can be molded into cladding material and attached to walls, or sandwiched between two panes of double-glazed windows to begin generating renewable energy for the building.
It reflects the converted light to the edges of the panel, where strings of photovoltaic (PV) cells wait to capture it and convert it into electricity.
One of the areas for improvement is to go from an 80% source of fruits and vegetables to 100%, completely renouncing chemicals. Among the five colors used – red, orange, yellow, green and blue – it remains to find a natural alternative to the blue dye.
Article translated from English