An engineering student in the Philippines has won the first ever global James Dyson Sustainability Award with AuREUS, a new and improved type of solar cladding. Unlike traditional solar panels, AuREUS is able to generate renewable energy even when the sun isn’t shining. By relying on UV light scattering through clouds and bouncing along walls, pavements, and other buildings, this technology could revolutionize the solar industry. Oh — and did we mention that its components are made from vegetable waste?

Designed by Carvey Ehren Maigue of Mapua University, the AuREUS system takes its name and inspiration from the physics that create the shifting glow of the Northern lights (the aurora borealis). Instead of directly converting sunlight into electricity, it uses a translucent film of luminescent particles, which absorb UV waves and re-emit them as visible light. Conventional PV cells are then able to capture these photons to generate electricity.

This is where the rotten veg comes in. “One of the most important components of my invention is sourced from waste produce,” explains Carvey. After testing nearly 80 different types of local crops, he found that the right kind of organic luminescent compounds could be derived from certain vegetables, fruits and roots like ginger. The process involves crushing them and extracting their juices, which are then filtered, distilled or steeped. The resulting dye is then suspended in a resin substrate, which can then be moulded into countless different shapes and applications, perfect for use in urban settings. 

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.”

Not only has Carvey invented an efficient process to generate renewable energy, but the materials he uses to do so create a closed-loop design process, so nothing is wasted. By choosing to use leftover crops as a primary resource, Carvey makes AuREUS infinitely more sustainable in the long-term. He also makes the project a boon to local farmers, who are now able to monetise their lost yield. “As a farmer, I see great potential in this technology to generate clean renewable energy. AuREUS System Technology conserves space using pre-existing structures, utilizes current resources and waste streams, and supports local agricultural communities,” says James Dyson.

Moving forward, Carvey is working to scale up his test panels and prototypes, so that they can be attached to buildings or even integrated into existing photovoltaic systems. He is also already studying how to develop AuREUS for use beyond walls and windows, into textiles and applications on cars, boats, and airplanes. We’ll say it: the future of solar design is bright!

All images by the James Dyson Foundation.