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
- Total solar eclipse will darken the sun Dec. 14: How to (hopefully) watch iton December 4, 2020 at 2:52 pm
The only total solar eclipse of 2020 is coming up on Dec. 14. This remarkable celestial event will happen when the moon slips in front of the sun, blocking out the fiery disk and creating temporary ...
- Late Bloomer First Solar Needs a Tech Refreshon December 4, 2020 at 6:23 am
Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading Tips Having covered First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) for a decade, it was gratifying to ...
- JA Solar, Jinko and Longi Joined up announces : Production capacity of 182mm modules will reach 54GW in 2021on December 4, 2020 at 5:28 am
On November 12.2020, the 182mm modules and system technology conference “customer value focused, advanced PV technology for better LCOE” jointly held by JA Solar, Jinko Solar and Longi green energy ...
- LONGi achieves new milestone as first solar brand to exceed 20GW in module shipments in 2020on December 3, 2020 at 6:51 pm
LONGi has set a new record for being the first solar brand to exceed 20GW in shipments of PV modules in 2020. Since its foundation in 2000, LONGi has always been market oriented and customer focused, ...
- Public hearing on possible solar farm on Route 136 in Harford County scheduled for Dec. 15on December 3, 2020 at 5:30 pm
A solar power facility slated for Fairview Farms off Route 136, between Route 543 and Schucks Road, will be the subject of a Maryland Public Service Commission public hearing Dec. 15.
- Mass Megawatts with Best Cash Position in Years Being Critical Toward Producing Initial Patent Pending Solar Tracker Saleson December 3, 2020 at 7:49 am
Mass Megawatts Wind Power, Inc. (OTC: MMMW) announces progress toward initial new product corporate growth objectives. It can be achieved with additional cash made recently available to the company.
- ABQ solar company wins two major contractson December 2, 2020 at 3:03 pm
The company announced a deal Nov. 10 with international solar developer Lightsource bp to supply enough solar trackers for 1.4 gigawatts of new solar installations. And on Nov. 30, Array announced a ...
- New Technology Keeps Solar on Trackon November 30, 2020 at 8:04 pm
Researchers continue to work on improvements in solar power, developing better cells, using new materials in panels, and focusing on improving efficiency while lowering cost. The solar power industry ...
- Solar Tracker Market Exceed Industry Evolution in forthcoming Years 2020-2029 | The Solar Company, Abengoa Solaron November 29, 2020 at 10:41 pm
A consciously conceived and designed business intelligence report titled Global Solar Tracker market 2020 by Manufacturers, Type, and Application, Forecast to 2029 by MarketResearch.biz discloses a ...
- Solar energy on track to power London rail link by 2022on November 23, 2020 at 12:13 pm
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Solar power will be used on a major railway line into London from early 2022, the company behind the project said on Monday, as Britain aims for net-zero ...
via Bing News