Published by Anne-Florence Neveu at 2022-12-03 14:05

Sun Catcher unveiled at the G20!

Prof. Duncan McMillan presents the first prototype of his joint work with our resident Teresa van Dongen at the G20 summit in Bali.

Sun Catcher

Sun Catcher is an organically constructed solar panel made with papaya enzyme and algae dye. After charging on the window, the solar panel turns into a light shade and is the source of power for the lamp. The result is an energy-neutral lamp usable anywhere. This solar panel uses a papaya enzyme to reduce the high energetic cost of solar panel production. The models presented are a first visualisation of the design concept and do not yet contain any technology and electronics. The final design will be presented at Highlight festival in Delft.


A papaya enzyme (papain) has been discovered helpful in producing environmentally friendly solar panels. The enzyme reduces the power needed to produce titanium dioxide (TiO2), the conductive material that harvests energy from the sun when used in association with organic dyes inside the panel. Producing TiO2 is currently an energy-consuming process that involves heating at 700oC for several hours, a procedure that can only be done in specialised facilities. Professor Duncan McMillan discovered that this process could be done at 250oC in two hours by using a common fruit enzyme called papain during the oxidation process.

Teresa van Dongen


Teresa van Dongen is an Amsterdam-based designer (b.1988) whose current research stretches the limits of living materials to translate her deep-rooted fascination with nature and interactions into practical yet vulnerable design products and installations. By working with bacteria and other living microorganisms that produce photons or electrons within their life cycle, she opens up the possibility of tapping into yet unused and renewable energy sources, highlighting the immense reservoir of potential existing in the natural world. By carefully crafting living interactions, she prompts us to think critically about our current way of interacting with non-human life.


Duncan McMillan


Duncan McMillan is an Assistant Professor in Enzymology at TU Delft. He was raised in New Zealand, where he was trained as a microbiologist/membrane biochemist (Univ. Otago). He was awarded the Prestigious Rutherford Discovery Fellowship in 2016 and has since taken up his present position at TU Delft. His current research focuses on the theme of energy and life and explores the links between physiology, respiration and central metabolism. In collaboration with his research group, he investigates the adaptation of life when faced with environmental pressures, zooming in on the role of the cell membrane, and respiratory and metabolic enzymes in successful environmental adaptation.