As our understanding of solar harvesting technologies becomes more sophisticated, it’s quickly becoming obvious that in the future, solar panels will become integrated into our daily lives. Instead of being relegated to the roof, flexible, ultra-sensitive solar panels could eventually become essential elements of almost every gadget and appliance.

This idea inspired Swiss artist Marjan van Aubel to ask a very important question: what if every object worked as a solar cell? To test her theory that electrical energy can be generated by more than just rooftop panels, van Aubel set about designing a set of glass drinking vessels that would help us keep our gadgets powered up while also keeping our bodies hydrated.

Image via Marjan van Aubel

Each glass in van Aubel’s “Energy Collection” is a tiny power plant, constantly gathering energy from the passive sunlight around it. The secret to the glasses’ ability to soak up solar power comes from the use of a special photovoltaic dye first invented by photochemist Michael Graetzel. This technique employs a porous Titanium dioxide layer soaked with photosensitive dye – a natural pigment extracted from the juice of blueberries or spinach. “He [Graetzel] discovered that the dye that gives the red or blue colour to berries, gives off an electron when light strikes it,” writes van Aubel on her website. “One side of the glass is positive, the other negative and when the cell is exposed to light, the dye transmits its electrons to the titanium dioxide and releases an electronic current.”

As pointed out in this review, the glasses are designed to be store in a special cabinet that can collect and store the energy gathered by the glasses, and then use it to charge smartphones, small lamps, or other electronic devices. Because the glasses work in both direct and diffused sunlight, the cabinet is an ideal (and stylish) way to bring renewable energy into the home.

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