New invention uses farmers' damaged crops to produce electricity

A new invention is harnessing the power of wasted food crops to produce renewable energy.

AuREUS System Technology took out the sustainability prize in the prestigious James Dyson Award 2020, announced on Thursday.  

Inspired by the plight of farmers in the Philippines who often lose much of their produce due to severe weather disruptions, the invention aimed to find a use for crops often left to waste.

The material is made from the damaged fruit and vegetable crops and converts UV light into renewable energy. 

Inventor Carvey Ehren Maigue, from Mapua University in Manila, said he tested almost 80 different types of local crops in the Philippines, finding nine that showed a high potential for long-term use.

The material 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 traditional solar panels can't.

It can generate electricity in both sunny and cloudy conditions, as the participles in the 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 be then transformed into electricity," the awards panel said.

James Dyson, founder and chief engineer at Dyson said the material was "impressive in the way it makes sustainable use of waste crops". He also credited Carvey's "resolve and determination" in persevering with the product's creation.

"I wish him every success because, as a farmer, I have always been concerned about covering fertile, food-producing, agricultural land in photovoltaic cells," Dyson said.

Carvey said winning the award was "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."

The awards had a record-number of entries this year, with almost 1800 submissions.