This Pinoy student bags international award for inventing solar panels made from waste crops

Published November 19, 2020, 2:55 PM

by Jessica Pag-iwayan

Carvey Ehren Maigue from Mapua University becomes the first-ever recipient of the James Dyson Sustainability Award

Carvey Ehren Maigue / Photo courtesy of James Dyson Foundation

An engineering student from Mapua University, Carvey Ehren Maigue has brought honor not just to his university but to the entire country as the first-ever recipient of the James Dyson Sustainability Award.

The new category under the James Dyson Awards is designed to challenge students to come up with inventions that can generate sustainable, renewable energy.

Energy from crops

With his AuREUS System Technology, a material made from waste crops that can be attached to a pre-existing structure or surface to harvest UV light and convert it into visible light to generate electricity in a way that traditional solar panels can’t, 27-year-old Carvey bested more than 1,800
entries of students from 27 countries across the globe.

“I focused on solar energy because I believe that it is good if we can use this natural resources,” Carvey says. “Even if it’s cloudy or rainy, there are still UV light around us, and conventional solar panels can’t get this energy. And that’s the thing my invention gives focus to.”

What is remarkable about Carvey’s invention is that it doesn’t simply just get energy from natural resources. The materials he uses in AuREUS are in fact made from waste crops.

AuREUS uses waste crops / Photo courtesy of James Dyson Foundation

“One of the most important components of my invention is that we can get energy even from waste crops, especially produce that are hit by natural calamities,” he continues. “There are organic luminescent compounds from different fruits and vegetables, these high energy waves are being converted into visible lights. Using solar panels and solar films, this invisible lights are converted into electricity.”

Struggles behind the scene

Before he perfected his invention, Carvey went through numerous setbacks. He was not only struggling with turning his idea into a reality, but also dealing with personal challenges.

One might ask why the James Dyson awardee is still in college at the age of 27. Due to some family and financial problems, the former Mapua University scholar had to stop studying for several years. During that time, Carvey worked numerous jobs to save enough money to go back to school.

“Things got difficult both for the family and for me financially. I came to the point where I had told our lovely, single mom, who is working hard for my sister and I, that she should focus on my sister, who was also entering college at that time while I would find ways so I could go back to school,” he says. “What I did was I took prototyping projects for students and for some companies as well until I was able to raise enough money.”

In 2018, Carvey and his teammates joined the competition but failed to make it to the national leg. But this didn’t stop the young inventor from continuing with his project, even though some of his teammates already graduated. This year, all of his hard works paid off. It was James Dyson, founder and chief engineer at Dyson, himself who brought the good news to Carvey.

Carvey Ehren Maigue / Photo courtesy of James Dyson Foundation

“AuREUS is impressive in the way it makes sustainable use of waste crops, but I’m particularly impressed by Carvey’s resolve and determination. Having failed to make the national stage of the Award in 2018, he stuck at it and further developed his idea —this will be a very important character trait as he embarks on the long road to commercialization,” Dyson says. “I wish him every success because, as a farmer, I have always been concerned about covering fertile, food-producing, agricultural land in photovoltaic cells. Carvey’s invention demonstrates a convincing way to create clean energy on existing structures, like windows, within cities.”

Up to this day, Carvey still can’t believe that he bagged the award.

“I’m definitely very, very happy. To win the sustainability award gives me the confidence and the affirmation that, not just my solution, but the problem as well that I’m trying to solve is something that, is worthwhile and something that’s significant,” he tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “For students and teachers, I hope that this way I can show them that it is possible, just hold on. It might be hard right now but there’s always a possibility, a chance.”

Carvey Ehren Maigue with a AuREUS solar window / Photo courtesy of James Dyson Award

He also asks teachers to be patient with difficult students like him.

“Just hold on because who knows, one of your students might be building something better, something bigger that can change the world,” Carvey says. “I am really hopeful that this will be a way to spark that in them. And to show them that as Filipinos, as Southeast Asians, we can. And there are people who are there to hear our story.”

Carvey will received ₱1.9 million from the James Dyson Foundation. He will use this money to install the first actual activation of AuREUS System Technology in a community clinic in a far flung area in Quezon Province.