Solar power is one of today’s leading trends in the production of clean, efficient, and environmentally friendly energy. However, while solar power is very popular, it still faces some grave problems that limit its effectiveness. One of the biggest challenges to solar panels is that they are not capable of absorbing all light energy that hits them, hindered largely by the shape of the panels, which do not properly capture sunlight as the sun changes position.
At the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, scientists Matt Schlian and Max Shtein have made the next big step toward making solar panels more efficient. While the art of Japanese paper cutting, kirigami, is typically associated with the creation of clever shapes, it has been adapted by these scientists to produce unique solar panel strips that are capable of altering their shape in order to better capture the sun’s energy throughout the day.
Devised from the traditional kirigami format, these new panels are slowly stretched throughout the day to maintain the most effective angle of light capture. Lightweight and easy to operate, the new kirigami solar panel technology has already proven to be cost-effective and efficient, capable of revolutionizing the solar industry as we know it.
Sun tracking, a method utilized in the solar energy for years, has consistently remained troublesome for innovators due to the inflexible nature of most modern solar panels.
With solar cells cut into strips, these new panels are able to bend and fold like paper, which allows them to follow the sun’s light by shifting and assuming shapes that optimize the exposed surface area of the solar panel. Most current methods of sun tracking involve the use of heavy motors, gears, and other cumbersome machinery. The flexibility of these new panels allows them to be altered with very slight movements, requiring a lot less machinery and energy.
While not currently in mass production, developers Matt Schlian and Max Shtein hope to begin marketing these solar strips very soon. Before releasing their invention to the public, they say, it would be best to experiment further with the technology in order to discover all of its possible applications.