Marjan van Aubel's solar powered furnishings

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Solar power is an important source of renewable energy in the march towards a post-oil economy. Many developments are taking place on a large scale— grassy fields populated by solar panels, or solar-powered transport. Young designers like Marjan van Aubel are experimenting with the potential held in the sun's rays to transform ordinary pieces of furniture into mini power generators.

The Current Table, released last year in collaboration with Swiss-based company Solaronix, is a light-weight structure with a transparent table-top. The table's hairpin style legs hark back to Modernism, but are updated with contemporary materials. Its orange, patterned table-top is not just a pretty surface. It is a working Dye Sensitized Solar Cell, which generates electrical currents via a process not unlike photosynthesis. This particular type of solar cell is special due to it's ability to capture diffused light, while classic solar cells need direct sunlight to successfully accumulate energy. The Current Table holds several USB ports and can simultaneously support and charge your iPad, while you flick through your favourite websites.

This project heralds a positive future for design, where designers collaborate with artists, scientists and technology experts to produce innovative new objects that benefit humankind. For example, the Current Table was made with the help of product development from Instrument-pd, electronic development from Kudustudio, graphics from Marine Duroselle and product photography from Mathijs Labadie and Wai Ming Ng.

The Current Window is the latest development from Marjan van Aubel, and this is perhaps where the Dye Sensitized Solar Cell sees its most appropriate use. The age-old beauty of stained glass windows marries the latest photovoltaic developments to produce a good-looking and practical addition to the home. The principle and the aesthetic is the same as the aforementioned table, but the window has the ability to blend into a wider range of decors and serve those who might not fancy the Current Table gracing their lounge.

I do wonder when products like these will become affordable and available to the public. In any case, it is a step in the right direction. You can find more thought-provoking work from Marjan van Aubel here.