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
- Canadian Solar Completes the Sale of A 17.7 MWp Subsidy-free Solar Portfolio in Italyon March 23, 2020 at 5:26 pm
Canadian Solar Inc. (the "Company" or "Canadian Solar") (NASDAQ: CSIQ) announced today the closing of a 17.7 MWp portfolio sale in Italy to Sonnedix. The Company expects to recognize revenue from the ...
- Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar hybrid is Swatch's long-awaited smartwatchon March 23, 2020 at 9:35 am
However, it seems that heart rate tracking won’t make the cut, making this feel very much like an announcement ... It’s a similar story in the CHF 500-1,200 bracket, where sales declined by 21% over ...
- Solar Tracker Market Opportunities, Demand and Forecasts (2020-2026)on March 21, 2020 at 8:32 am
The global solar tracker market is projected to gain impetus from the increasing demand for green energy across the globe According to a report published by Fortune Business Insights titled Solar ...
- Despite Recent Disappointments, First Solar Has Become An Attractive Longer-Term Investmenton March 21, 2020 at 4:42 am
First Solar has about $17 per share in cash and effectively no debt. Delayed revenue recognition last year to be realized this year should make it easy for First Solar to meet its annual guidance of ...
- Solar energy tracker powers down after 17 yearson March 20, 2020 at 12:10 pm
SORCE was the first satellite mission to record a broad spectrum of SSI for a long period, tracking wavelengths from 1 to 2400 nanometers across its three SSI instruments. "For public health, ozone ...
- Solar Energy Tracker Powers Down After 17 Years (image)on March 20, 2020 at 11:09 am
Banner Image: The Sun is Earth's primary power source. Energy from the Sun, called solar irradiance, drives Earth's climate, temperature, weather, atmospheric chemistry, ocean cycles, energy balance ...
- Premiere: Yorkshire Producer Watky Reveals Energetic Yet Seductive Title Track From Imminent 'Solar' EPon March 20, 2020 at 8:52 am
COMPLEX participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means COMPLEX gets paid commissions on purchases made through our links to retailer sites. Our editorial content is not influenced ...
- Solar Charge Controller Market to Reach USD 3.59 Billion by 2026; Ability to Regulate Voltage Will Augment Growth: Fortune Business Insights™on March 19, 2020 at 5:27 pm
Pune, March 19, 2020 -- The global solar charge controller market is set to gain impetus from their ability to regulate the voltage generated from solar panels. In addition to.
- Vivint Solar Is Facing Major Challengeson March 19, 2020 at 4:44 pm
Vivint Solar's share prices are tumbling as a result of a disappointing Q4 and an economic downturn. Vivint Solar's increasing costs are a bad sign in an emergi ...
- Wisconsin solar project affected by coronavirus back on trackon March 12, 2020 at 6:59 pm
Suppliers to a 300-megawatt solar farm are getting materials again from China. The builders of a major solar project in Wisconsin, including a big Minnesota renewable energy firm, have remedied ...
via Bing News