Marjan van Aubel (Bergen op Zoom, 1985) discovered her calling as a designer while studying for a master’s degree in product design at the Royal College of Art in London: to make attractive products that are both highly efficient and technologically advanced.
Her graduation project was a cabinet filled with china that captures and stores light energy from its immediate surroundings. To elaborate on this idea, Van Aubel founded the company, Caventou, named for the French pharmacist who discovered chlorophyll in 1817. Chlorophyll is the green, light absorbing plant pigment central to the process of photosynthesis, in which light energy is converted to chemical energy in the form of sugar.
To make its products, Van Aubel’s company employs similar principles. Her Current Window contains dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) layered between two panes of tempered glass. The dyes are organic pigments that convert sunlight to electrical energy. This type of solar cell is sensitive even to diffuse indoor lighting and indirect light; the energy harvested can be used to charge devices such as phones, tablets, and laptops via USB cables. Another Van Aubel project is the Current Table, seen next to the gallery window. Its surface also generates energy through integrated DSSCs.
The Bauhaus-like patterns in the panes of Current Window result from the need to balance aesthetics and efficiency. Each dye has its own wavelength and energy yield. The composed solar elements must generate enough energy to be useful and be visually attractive. Van Aubel hopes that her contemporary stained glass windows will soon find their way into homes, schools, offices, and churches.
Marjan van Aubel is one of the 26 designers and studios that are selected for the group show Dream Out Loud – Designing for Tomorrow’s Demands. The exhibition can be visited from 26 August 2016 in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Read more about the exhibition or order tickets.