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Solar Panels Twist to Track the Sun's Path

Engineers have put a new twist on solar panels.

Inspired by kirigami, a Japanese art form similar to origami that involves both folding and cutting paper, researchers at the University of Michigan twisted, folded and cut thin film solar panels in a way that makes them more efficient.

Because of the unique design of these panels, they can track the sun as it moves throughout the day.

Doctoral student Aaron Lamoureux and associate professor Max Shtein worked with Paper artist Matthew Shlian to find the best pattern for a sheet of Kapton plastic, which already had solar cells stuck to it.

This kind of flat solar panel is limited in efficiency since it’s designed to lay stationary on a flat surface and only gets direct sunlight during one small slice of day. Motorized assemblies that move with the sun are another option, but they’re usually heavy and expensive.

Once the sheet of solar cells was cut in a kirigami manner, the researchers could stretch it, causing the plastic to twist. The idea is to stretch and twist the sheet in sync with the angle of the sun as it arcs across the sky. Watch the video below to see it in action.

In experiments, the twisted solar panels were able to produce 36 percent more energy than a traditional panel. A motorized solar panel system was slightly more efficient, producing 40 percent more energy than a traditional panel.

Then, of course, there’s the matter of aesthetics. The unique design isn’t just more efficient than flat solar panels, but perhaps more attractive as well.

 

Source: Discovery News

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