Teresa van Dongen & Duncan McMillan

Teresa van Dongen is leading a new interdisciplinary collaboration with the research group of Duncan McMillan, enzymology Professor at TU Delft. Together, they will apply his discovery on the project 'Sun Catcher': the world-first application of an organically constructed solar panel made from fruit waste.

Sun Catcher

In collaboration with the Duncan McMillan research group at TU Delft, Teresa van Dongen is working on a solar design, which will be the world's first application of an organically constructed solar cell. The ground-breaking discovery, made by Professor McMillan, makes it possible to produce solar cells using enzymes extracted from papaya and kiwi fruit waste. This collaborative research constitutes a first step towards the next generation of solar panels, a crucial technology in the field of renewable energy. Currently, solar energy still relies on the extraction of rare metals and the use of dangerous chemical products in its manufacturing process. Outside of Europe, there are often no regulations in place for the recycling of solar panels. Consequently, they end up in landfills with other electronic waste where they contribute to land and water pollution and prevent solar energy from being completely renewable. Professor McMillan's discovery, which uses kiwi fruit enzymes to produce a photo-reactive layer on a glass sheet, eliminates the need to use chemicals and rare metals in the production process. It also reduces the amount of energy needed for the creation of solar panels. Finally, the technology allows van Dongen to design a piece where the sustainability of the materials is a priority throughout the design 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 of nature and interactions into practical yet vulnerable design products and installations. After studying biology for two years, she decided to study design and graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2014. Since graduating, she has exhibited her work internationally and received several design awards including the Young Talents awards at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven in 2015. Her work has also been supported by the Keep An Eye grant in 2016.

Her earlier research explored the potential of micro-organisms to produce electricity or light for domestic usage. By working with bacteria and other living micro-organisms 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). His interests exported him to the United Kingdom (Univ. Leeds) where he studied bioelectrochemistry before continuing his research in Germany (Friedrich Schiller Univ.) and then Japan (The Univ. of Tokyo). While in Japan he became an Assistant Professor in the lab of Hiroyuki Noji and orchestrated an international consortium between Japan and New Zealand. He was then 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, respiratory and metabolic enzymes in successful environmental adaptation.

Duncan McMillan research group

Dr. Duncan McMillan - Assistant Professor
Stefan Marsden - PhD student
Albert Godoy Hernández - PhD Student
Edward van Amelrooij - MSc Applied Physics
Janna Bogers - MSc Bionanotechnology
Timmy Paez Watson - MSc Life Science and Technology
Alvaro Mielgo Gomez - MSc Life Science and Technology