Solar cells can absorb up to 40% more energy when they can track the sun across the sky, but conventional, motorized trackers are very heavy and bulky for pitched rooftops and vehicle surfaces. Researchers have taken inspiration from kirigami, the ancient Japanese art of paper cutting, to create solar cells that can have it both ways.
Aaron Lamoureux, a doctoral student in materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan, said the design takes the same thing a large tracking solar panel does, compressing it into something that is basically flat.
According to a report from the Department of Energy, residential rooftops make up around 85% of solar panel installations in the United States but are in need of major reinforcing for supporting the weight of conventional sun- tracking systems.
A group of engineers and an artist have created some small solar cells that can tilt within a larger panel, and at the same time can keep their surfaces more perpendicular to the sun’s rays. The results of their experiment were published in the journal Nature Communications.
Max Shtein, associate professor of materials science and engineering said, “The beauty of our design is, from the standpoint of the person who’s putting this panel up, nothing would really change. But inside, it would be doing something remarkable on a tiny scale”. Max said inside, the solar cell would split into small segments that would follow the sun’s position in unison.
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