Inspiring UV concept wins Dyson Sustainability Award 2020

Each year, the James Dyson Awards look for the most innovative ideas to make the world a better place and get young people interested in design engineering.

The James Dyson Award 2020 was no exception when it came to innovative ideas from young students across the world. One of the categories is Sustainability – winners of this category can expect a hefty prize of £30,000. The aim is to use design engineering to solve a problem in the world.

This year’s Sustainability award was won by Carvey Ehren Maigue from Mapua University, Manila. Carvey presented a concept titled AuREUS, an acronym for Aurora Renewable Energy & UV Sequestration. This pioneering design intends to use technology derived from recycled crop waste to absorb UV light and generate energy.

A brighter future

AuREUS would work in practice by being used to coat walls and windows using what are described as ‘quantum dot solar windows’. Its creator claims that a high volume of glass in modern buildings has induced excess exposure to UV light. By cladding buildings in AuREUS technology, wasted UV light can be captured. The AuREUS panels capture the UV light, which is invisible to the human eye and re-emit it as a form of visible light.

Photovoltaic (PV) cells, a core component of solar panels, would be placed around the edges of the AuREUS panels. When the panels re-emit the visible light, the PV cells would capture that in turn, converting it into DC electricity. The planned design ensures there would be regulating circuits to control voltage output – this would allow AuREUS panels to store the power they create to charge batteries or to be used to directly power other systems.

Not only is Carvey Ehren Maigue the proud winner of this award – the design was considered so ground-breaking that he was given two distinctions at a Thesis Colloquium and an invitation to a special conference on renewable energy, which has since been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A spin on solar panels

The AuREUS technology is an interesting if unusual twist on the more traditional method of generating solar power using PV cells. Most buildings currently use materials that reflect UV light – this effectively wastes the potential of using it for power, and can cause unwanted exposure to UV rays for people outside.

AuREUS turns this around, absorbing the UV rays to create a source of energy. This not only creates a greener way to generate power, but protects people from the harmful effects of induced UV exposure. The luminescent particles, which are suspended in resin, are embedded into the panels, to convert UV rays into a visible form of light.

These particles represent a range of colours including blue, green, yellow, orange and red. Sourced using recycled plant and vegetable matter, the AuREUS design is able to derive 80 per cent of its luminescent particles from plant and vegetable dyes – for the time being, a chemical dye is required for the colour blue.

The blue dye is a sticking point, as it can be tricky to find in nature – ironically, to make AuREUS truly green, it all comes down to the colour blue!

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