Mapua student wins international design award for invention made from crop waste

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 20) — An engineering student from Mapua University proved that crop wastes can still be useful.

Carvey Ehren Maigue, 27, got the first-ever sustainability prize given by The James Dyson Award for his invention made of discarded fruits and vegetables that absorbs stray ultraviolet rays from the sun and turns them into renewable energy. Mapua said Maigue's invention won against nearly 1,800 entries from all over the world.

The award, given by the foundation of British inventor, industrial designer and entrepreneur James Dyson, “celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers.”

Called AuREUS, Maigue’s technology does not need to face the sun to convert solar energy into electrical energy, unlike the conventional solar panels, as it is reliant on ultraviolet light, he said in an interview with Dyson. 

“AuREUS is actually a material, or a technology, that allows other devices to harvest ultraviolet light and convert it into electricity. AuREUS is based on a plastic material, so it can be formed into different shapes,” Maigue was quoted by Dyson as saying.

AeREUS, which was inspired by the science behind the northern lights, could replace typical window glasses “so that a whole building could become vertical solar energy farms,” he added.

The engineering student said one of the most important components of his invention could be sourced from rotting crops as these have “organic luminescent compounds” that “turn high energy violet waves into visible light.” He then uses solar panels and solar films to convert this visible light into electricity.

The technology could help farmers mitigate losses after getting hit by calamities by upcycling damaged crops, Maigue said.

Maigue said he intends to make his product available in the market soon, by dedicating more time for research and development.

Second attempt

He shared that he first joined the Dyson contest in 2018, but he did not make the cut at the time. This loss did not dampen his spirit as he spent the last two years improving on his work, and it was worth it.

During his first attempt, he aimed to make a window made of glass that uses sunlight to generate electricity. But the idea did not work, so he started experimenting with other materials.

Blue Box

The other top prize in the competition, the International 2020 James Dyson Award, went to the creator of Blue Box, an at-home testing device that seeks to detect the presence of breast cancer in urine samples. The Blue Box inventor is Judit Giró Benet, a post-graduate student at the University of California Irvine in the United States. 

Maigue and Benet will each receive £30,000 (around ₱1.9 million) in prize money. Maigue said the cash prize will be used to buy equipment to further AuREUS' manufacturing process. He added the money also means he can finish his time at the university, which has extended to 10 years as he had to pause his studies several times because of financial difficulties.

The recognition given by the foundation of British inventor, industrial designer, and entrepreneur James Dyson, “celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers.”