‘Non’ Solar Panels Generate Electricity without Sunlight
A new type of panel has been developed by an electrical engineering student in the Philippines named Carvey Ehren Maigue. He was awarded the British James Dyson Sustainability Award for creating something unusual from the waste.
He has developed a new material using crop waste that can transform ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun into electrical energy.
Science behind the Tech
The invention has been named AuREUS (Aurora Renewable Energy and UV Sequestration) and the technology behind it has been derived from the science of Northern and Southern Lights popularly called Aurora Borealis and aurora australis, respectively – luminescent particles absorbing high energy particles and then re-emitting them as visible light. The luminescent particles in this case have been derived from certain fruits and vegetables and have been suspended in a resin substrate.
When UV light falls on them, these particles absorb and then re-emit visible light along the edges because of the phenomenon of internal reflectance. Solar PV panels are then placed along the edges to capture this visible light. The light is then converted to electricity.
This generated electricity can then be used for storage, battery charging, or direct use.
The Inspiration behind the Innovation
It started with the simple idea to catch UV light to improve upon the limitation of solar cell technology and ultimately contribute to creating a regenerative and sustainable habitat.
Capabilities that make this Tech a breakthrough
There are several features embedded in this technology that makes it a far better solution for energy capture and conversion than its direct competing product – the solar panels.
- AuREUS uses cheaper materials and has been applied and tested for acoustic and mechanical properties for building settings.
- The panels made from this technology can function even when not facing the sun, can capture UV scattering through clouds and UV light bouncing along pavements, walls, and other buildings.
- This opens up the doors to the construction of Vertical Solar Farms leading to more energy production per unit area of the land.
- In Urban settings, it can be applied to the skyscrapers allowing access to clean renewable energy. The glass claddings deployed in buildings use special films that reflect UV away from the building. Now this UV can be applied to generate electricity instead of causing induced UV exposure to people outside
- Fruit and vegetable waste can be put to such a demanding application.
Carvey’s prototype is a single panel of size 3-by-2-foot that he has installed in the window in his apartment. The test panel is transparent but tinted (lime green) & can generate enough electricity per day to charge two phones. According to him, scaling up can enable these panels to produce electricity for the entire building.
Carvey has tested nearly 80 different types of local crops, and he found that nine of these show huge potential for long-term use. The technology could soon be turning the windows and walls of buildings into a rich new source of electricity.
The current monthly production capacity of AuREUS is 30 panels a month. With, additional funding, the innovator can take his idea forward by creating a team and building a facility that can increase the current capacity.