2024 Contest Now Accepting Entries!

Submit your best new product ideas for a chance at $25,000, other great prizes, and global recognition. If you already are registered, log in to access the entry form. Otherwise, click here to get started.

Help build a better tomorrow

Since Tech Briefs magazine launched the Create the Future Design contest in 2002 to recognize and reward engineering innovation, over 15,000 design ideas have been submitted by engineers, students, and entrepreneurs across six continents. You can also join the innovators who dared to dream big and build a better tomorrow by entering this year’s contest.

Read About Past Winners’ Success Stories

Over the past 20 years, many innovators have used the recognition afforded by the contest to advance the development and marketing of their technologies. We highlight some success stories of past winners who have brought their inventions to the marketplace.

Click here to read more

A ‘Create the Future’ Winner Featured on ‘Here’s an Idea’

Spinal cord injury affects 17,000 Americans and 700,000 people worldwide each year. A research team at NeuroPair, Inc. won the Grand Prize in the 2023 Create the Future Design Contest for a revolutionary approach to spinal cord repair. In this Here’s an Idea podcast episode, Dr. Johannes Dapprich, NeuroPair’s CEO and founder, discusses their groundbreaking approach that addresses a critical need in the medical field, offering a fast and minimally invasive solution to a long-standing problem.

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Thank you from our Sponsors

“At COMSOL, we are very excited to recognize innovators and their important work this year. We are grateful for the opportunity to support the Create the Future Design Contest, which is an excellent platform for designers to showcase their ideas and products in front of a worldwide audience. Best of luck to all participants!”

— Bernt Nilsson, Senior Vice President of Marketing, COMSOL, Inc.

“From our beginnings, Mouser has supported engineers, innovators and students. We are proud of our longstanding support for the Create the Future Design Contest and the many innovations it has inspired.”

— Kevin Hess, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Mouser Electronics

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LumEN: Luminescent Solar Concentrators for Sustainable On-Demand Electricity Production

Votes: 50
Views: 13178

Lum-EN is the first portable device able to harvest solar energy and deliver electrical energy on-demand employing organic luminescent solar concentrators (OLSCs). Thanks to this technology, high light-to-electricity efficiencies can be attained with little use of conventional solar cells.

Typical OLSCs consist of a luminescent organic dye dissolved into an inexpensive transparent matrix material such as poly(methylmethacrylate). The luminescent species absorb the incident solar light and isotropically re-emit it at a longer wavelength. A large part of the emitted photons is trapped in the OLSC plate by total internal reflection and wave-guided towards the edges, where solar cells are placed. Ideally, the emission spectrum of the luminescent species matches with the absorption spectrum of the solar cell so that its power conversion efficiency can be improved and a reduction of the actual active surface area of the solar cell can be attained, thereby ensuring reduction of costs of solar energy production.

As opposed to simple solar cells which can only work under direct sunlight, the OLSC panels can operate well also under diffuse light, making it possible for Lum-EN to be used also in poorly illuminated environments, cloudy locations or even indoor. To the best of our knowledge, no sustainable technologies able to work efficiently under diffuse light are present on the market. In particular, no portable products integrating the OLSC technology have appeared on the market yet.

By varying the active surface of the luminescent solar concentrators, the output energy can be modulated so as to power a set of LEDs or recharge a smart-phone, a tablet or any electrical portable device such as mp3 players.

Lum-EN can be used in all situations where a stand-alone energetic source is needed, such as during outdoor activities, excursions, camping, sailing. The device is easily transportable (light-weight and pocket-size) and straightforward to use thanks to its highly ergonomic design and its user-friendly interface.

In the field of consumer products based on sustainable technologies, Lum-EN addresses specific market pains, such as the lack of an appealing product-design, the lack of identifying esthetics and the inefficient functioning under poor illumination. In particular, most sustainable energy devices are powered by rigid and bulky silicon solar cells, which are not integrated in the product but appear to be applied only after the full product design process is completed. On the contrary, a real integration between design and technology is one of the main characteristics of Lum-EN, as the technology and the design of the product are intimately connected. These features make Lum-EN an attractive product for young people (aged 15 to 35) and all individuals aware of environmental and sustainability issues and interested in cool and appealing design.

The materials needed for the main components of Lum-EN are inexpensive (dye-doped PMMA plates) and easily purchasable on the market. The manufacturing techniques employed for the production of Lum-EN are well know techniques typically employed for plastic-based consumer products (e.g. injection molding) and can therefore be easily optimized in terms of number of pieces/cost ratio.

  • Awards

  • 2012 Consumer Products Category Winner


Voting is closed!


  • Name:
    Gianmarco Griffini
  • Type of entry:
    Team members:
    Gianmarco Griffini - Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering "Giulio Natta", Politecnico di Milano (Italy);
    Massimo Micocci -
    Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering "Giulio Natta", Politecnico di Milano (Italy);
    Francesca Ostuzzi - Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering "Giulio Natta", Politecnico di Milano (Italy)
  • Patent status: