Maanasa Mendu, a 13-year-old Ohio girl, won the grand prize in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Mendu designed inexpensive ‘solar leaves’ to generate low-cost clean energy.
Mendu’s visit to India inspired her to come up with a cost-effective solution to ensure the provision of drinking water and clean energy to the people living in the developing areas. She devised solar leaves that can harness energy for just $5. For her brilliant invention, Mendu won the title of the ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ and was awarded a cash prize of $25,000.
Initially, her sole focus was wind energy, and she designed a gadget to harness wind power that looked like this:
You can watch the video that won her entry into the competition here:
As the competition progressed, her 3M mentor Margauz Mitera led her to explore a different kind of energy generation source. Mendu was fascinated by how plants function and thus, developed the solar leaves that could harness the vibrational energy as well.
The solar leaves designed by Mendu can draw energy from the wind, the sun, precipitation, and even the leaf vibrations. The energy is harnessed by the solar cells and the piezoelectric materials. Her finished product is shown below:
Mendu hopes to take this prototype design for the solar leaves further and test it for the commercial use.