Solar cells capture up to 40 percent more energy when they can track the sun across the sky, but conventional, motorized trackers are too heavy and bulky for pitched rooftops and vehicle surfaces.
Now, by borrowing from kirigami, the ancient Japanese art of paper cutting, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed solar cells that can have it both ways.
“The design takes what a large tracking solar panel does and condenses it into something that is essentially flat,” said Aaron Lamoureux, a doctoral student in materials science and engineering and first author on the paper in Nature Communications.
Residential rooftops make up about 85 percent of solar panel installations in the U.S., according to a report from the Department of Energy, but these roofs would need significant reinforcing to support the weight of conventional sun-tracking systems.
A team of engineers and an artist developed an array of small solar cells that can tilt within a larger panel, keeping their surfaces more perpendicular to the sun’s rays.
“The beauty of our design is, from the standpoint of the person who’s putting this panel up, nothing would really change,” said Max Shtein, associate professor of materials science and engineering. “But inside, it would be doing something remarkable on a tiny scale: the solar cell would split into tiny segments that would follow the position of the sun in unison.”
Solar cell researchers think of tracking in terms of how much of a solar panel the sun can “see.” When the panel is at an angle, it looks smaller. By designing an array that tilts and spreads apart when the sun’s rays are coming in at lower angles, they raise the effective area that is soaking up sunlight.
To explore patterns, the team of engineers worked with paper artist Matthew Shlian, a lecturer in the U-M School of Art and Design. Shlian showed Lamoureux and Shtein how to create them in paper using a plotter cutter. Lamoureux then made more precise patterns in Kapton, a space-grade plastic, using a carbon-dioxide laser.
Although the team tried more complex designs, the simplest pattern worked best. With cuts like rows of dashes, the plastic pulled apart into a basic mesh. The interconnected strips of Kapton tilt in proportion to how much the mesh is stretched, to an accuracy of about one degree.
To make the solar array, Kyusang Lee, a doctoral student in electrical engineering, built custom solar cells in the lab of Stephen Forrest, the Peter A. Franken Distinguished University Professor of Engineering and Paul G. Goebel Professor of Engineering. He and Lamoureux attached them to an uncut piece of Kapton, leaving spaces for the cuts. Then, Lamoureux patterned the Kapton with the laser cutter.
The design with the very best solar-tracking promise was impossible to make at U-M because the solar cells would be very long and narrow. Scaling up to a feasible width, the cells became too long to fit into the chambers used to make the prototypes on campus, so the team is looking into other options.
The optimized design is effective because it stretches easily, allowing a lot of tilt without losing much width. According to the team’s simulations of solar power generation during the summer solstice in Arizona, it is almost as good as a conventional single-axis tracker, offering a 36 percent improvement over a stationary panel. Conventional trackers produce about 40 percent more energy than stationary panels under the same conditions, but they are bulky, prone to catching the wind and ten or more times heavier, Shtein said.
“We think it has significant potential, and we’re actively pursuing realistic applications,” he said. “It could ultimately reduce the cost of solar electricity.”
The Latest on: Solar Tracking
via Google News
The Latest on: Solar Tracking
- India's stunning solar bid rides on 12 boosterson November 26, 2020 at 7:41 am
India’s solar auction on November 23 set a new record low tariff, beating the previous best set only six months ago.
- DEWA Innovation Centre and 800MW 3rd Phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park Inauguratedon November 26, 2020 at 4:31 am
HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has inaugurated Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s (DEWA’s) Innovation Centre and the ...
- Australians Install Rooftop Solar Panels at a Record Paceon November 25, 2020 at 3:34 am
Australians are installing rooftop solar panels at a record pace -- taking lockdowns to quash the spread of coronavirus earlier this year as an opportunity for some home improvement.
- Solar energy on track to power London rail link by 2022on November 23, 2020 at 6:02 am
Social enterprise aims to power some commuter trains with solar energy, with government backing, as Britain aims for net-zero emissions ...
- Dual Axis Solar Trackers Market Next Big Thing | Major Giants: Array Technologies, NEXTracker, First Solaron November 21, 2020 at 9:24 pm
Latest Released "Global Dual Axis Solar Trackers Market Comprehensive Study" is an expert and top to bottom investigation ...
- NASA launches U.S.-European satellite to track sea level riseon November 21, 2020 at 12:01 pm
European satellite designed to extend a decades-long measurement of global sea surface heights was launched into Earth orbit from California on Saturday.A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the satellite ...
- World’s first solar-powered cellular IoT asset tracker includes a batteryless version that can operate perpetually on harvested solar energy aloneon November 20, 2020 at 11:42 pm
All the essential news and articles related to the Internet of Things (IoT), on a daily basis, and with a business perspective.
- Arctech Solar Supplied 150MW 2P Tracker to Kazakhstanon November 19, 2020 at 4:57 pm
Hevel Group, Russia's largest integrated company in photovoltaics selected Arctech Solar, a leading solar tracking, racking and BIPV system provider to supply 150MW two-in-portrait (2P) trackers to ...
- Trina Solar Renews the Global Brand for Its Tracker Businesson November 19, 2020 at 3:30 am
PRNewswire/ -- Trina Solar Co., Ltd. (" Trina Solar " or the "Company"), a leading global PV and smart energy total solution provider, today announced the renewal of its global brand for tracker ...
- Impacts of COVID-19 on the Global Solar PV Tracker Market Report Research Industry 2020on November 18, 2020 at 10:43 pm
MarketDesk :The Impacts of COVID-19 on the Solar PV Tracker Market Report Research Industry 2020 has been included in market.biz library. This Global Solar PV Tracker market report has been created in ...
via Bing News