Kirigami Inspired Twisting Solar Panels Can Maximize Energy Usage

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Solar energy is the modern world’s wonderful renewable energy source.  As with any technology, solar panels are not fool proof.  They have to keep facing the sun in order to produce electricity.  Though there are motorized assemblies to achieve that but that increases the weight, complexity and expenses of this system.

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The scientists of the University of Michigan might have found a solution to this problem.  Using the Japanese art Kirigami, they have come up with a new, simpler alternative to these flat solar panels.  Matthew Shlian, a paper artist showed them a Kirigami pattern that suits their need.  This pattern consists of stacked lines of dashes cut into a piece of paper.  twisted solar panels4

When there is no external force applied, the sheet remains flat, but as soon as the sheet is stretched, the strips of plastic between the cuts along with the solar cells attached to them twist to one side.  The prototype consists of flexible solar cells made of gallium arsenide which were cut in a precise pattern.Though it’s just a prototype and the researchers need to solve some glitches like how to stack cells, protect them from the environment, and include a reliable motor, the concept is quite impressive.

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This new Kirigami inspired cell arrangement when tested in a setup simulating the summer solstice in Arizona, was able to produce 36% more energy than the traditional setup.  Associate professor, Max Shtein who headed the project along with Stephen Forrest said “We think it has significant potential, and we’re actively pursuing realistic applications.  It could ultimately reduce the cost of solar electrictiy.”

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