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This Heavenly, Solar-Powered Stained Glass Can Charge Your iPhone

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Call it a sustainable halo effect. Dutch designer Marjan van Aubel's new Current Window, stained glass that works like solar cells, may turn the colorful artwork adorning churches into a glowing symbol of eco-awareness, all while charging your phone mid-mass. Made with dye-sensitized solar cells, which utilize different colors of light to generate energy like chlorophyll, the multi-hued glass offers a forward-thinking take on a classic architectural element.

"Harvesting power with an old design element really creates this awareness of energy use and the environment," she says.

London-based van Aubel has been experimenting with the relatively new solar technology over the last few years, designing different furniture pieces such as last year's Current Table, which can convert indoor light into electricity. In effect, it creates a scenario where a desk lamp could be partially powered by its own glow. Last fall, the industrial designer started adapting the technology for stained glass. After receiving a funding grant from the Dutch Creative Industries Fund (Stimuleringsfonds), she had the resources in hand to build a prototype.

She's premiering the demo at Salone del Mobile this week in Milan with a window unit that utilizes the same tech as the table, with two USB ports on the base for plugging in smartphones or tablets. She's still experimenting with additional color combinations and forms, since future applications will require different shapes and sizes, but she feels like she has proof of concept. After the fair, she'll return to her office to work with partners on ramping up production and sales of the Current Table. But she believes her new stained glass technology offers a huge opportunity.

"Think of all the energy you could harvest inside a big modern church or a library," she says.

Marjan van Aubel will showcase her Current Window at the Unseen Energies Show at Spazio Rossana Orlandi in Milan from April 14 to 19th.