2020 was a record-breaking year for the James Dyson Award, an annual international design award that celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers. This year, the Award received its highest number of entries, and the quality was exceptional – highlighting the ingenuity of young inventors. The brief for entry is broad: design something that solves a problem.
This year, it is with great pride that the James Dyson Award’s first ever Sustainability Award winner is 27-year-old Carvey Ehren, a Filipino inventor from Mapua University.
The AuREUS System Technology invented by Carvey is a new material made from waste crops which converts UV light to renewable energy.
Many renewable energy sources suffer from intermittency: wind power and solar power can only be generated in very specific environmental conditions. Solar panels mostly capture and convert visible light into renewable energy and must be facing the sun to do so. Current solar farms are only built horizontally, never vertically and often placed on prime arable farmland, meaning the land can’t be used to grow crops. Yet, there are thousands of windows and other surfaces that could be repurposed.
The James Dyson Award’s first ever Sustainability Award winner is tackling the challenge of how we could more effectively generate renewable energy from light and upcycling waste in the process.
AuREUS, invented by Carvey Ehren Maigue from Mapua University in Manila, Philippines, is a material 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. Whether the sun is shining, or it is cloudy, Carvey’s material will still generate electricity as the particles in his material absorb UV light causing them to glow. As the particles ‘rest’ they remove excess energy and this ‘bleeds’ out of the material as visible light which can then be transformed into electricity. AuREUS has the potential to turn more solar energy into renewable energy than traditional solar panels and it can function fully even when not in direct sunlight. Current testing suggests that it can produce electricity 48% of the time, compared to 10-25% in conventional photovoltaic cells.
The Philippines is victim of severe weather disruption and Farmers can lose much of their produce as a result. Rather than leave the crops to rot, Carvey sought to use them as a UV absorbent compound for his substrate. After testing nearly 80 different types of local crops, Carvey found nine that show high potential for long-term use. The substrate, when applied to materials, is durable, translucent and can be moulded into different shapes. Carvey is already looking into how he can develop his material for use beyond windows and walls, such as fabrics and embedded into cars, boats and airplanes.
“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 commercialisation. 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.” James Dyson, Founder and Chief Engineer at Dyson.
Carvey first submitted his idea to the James Dyson Award in 2018 but did not progress to the Awarding stages of the competition. Then, his technology could only be applied to windows and used a chemical compound as the key ingredient in the substrate. 2 years on, with further R&D into applications and using upcycled waste crops, Carvey’s invention is the James Dyson Award’s first ever Sustainability Award winner. His persistence to improve his idea and learn from setbacks mirrors James Dyson’s ethos on failure – a key component to the design process fostered at Dyson.
After speaking to James Dyson, Carvey said, “Winning the James Dyson Award is both a beginning and an end. It marked the end of years of doubting whether my idea would find global relevance. It marks the beginning of the journey of finally bringing AuREUS to the world. I want to create a better form of renewable energy that uses the world’s natural resources, is close to people’s lives, forging achievable paths and rallying towards a sustainable and regenerative future.”
Meanwhile, the title of International winner of the James Dyson Award 2020 went to Judit Giró Benet, a 23-year-old biomedical engineering graduate from the University of Barcelona and a recent Cyber-physical Systems Master’s graduate from the University of California Irvine. She invented the Blue Box, a new way to detect breast cancer, at-home, using a urine sample.
The James Dyson Award forms part of a wider commitment by Sir James Dyson, to demonstrate the power of engineers to change the world. It has now financially supported 250 promising inventions from young engineers and scientists around the world.