How Food Waste Could Be Turned Into Energy

Last month a student from Mapua University made waves when he won the James Dyson Award for his ingenious solar panel design. The James Dyson Award is an international design award presented to innovators whose designs set out to solve a problem—for student Carvey Ehren Maigue, that problem was sustainability.

The Problem with Solar

Skeptics of solar energy have often pointed to one rationale as to why solar energy can’t be implemented on a national level: for solar energy to power anything, ideal sunny conditions need to be met, and they need to be met reliably. While solar panels do harvest energy on cloudy days, typical panels only convert 15-25% of the sunlight they receive into energy.

The Solution

Maigue’s AuREUS system (named for the aurora borealis phenomena) uses luminescent particles found in food waste combined with a resin substrate to absorb and reflect UV light. According to the design, the visible light reflects towards the edges of the panels, where PV cells will capture and convert the light into electricity.

The AuREUS system is designed to capture light on cloudy days and without direct sun, which will allow the panels to produce energy almost half the time. The system is designed using 80% sourced dyes from wasted food and vegetables as opposed to chemical ones, making the production of these panels more sustainable.

What’s Next?

Maigue’s system design won the first-ever James Dyson Sustainability Award with a prize of $35,000 to continue developing his design. Maigue hopes to find a viable substitute for the blue dye used in the panels to reach 100% natural sourcing of dyes and create options for solar-powered transportation.