A new design from researchers at the University of Michigan could significantly reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of solar panels, drawing inspiration from an ancient Japanese art.
Solar energy technology has made serious progress in the past few years, and a new development is poised to make the technology more efficient, and most importantly, less expensive. According to a report from Engadget, researchers from the University of Michigan announced on Wednesday that they have developed a panel that can remain facing the sun without using a motor to rotate the panel throughout the course of the day.
The panels drew inspiration from the ancient Japanese art of Kirigami. Kirigami is similar to the paper-folding craft origami, but also employs the use of cuts to configure paper into intricate shapes. The solar panel was printed on a flexible kapton substrate, and cut into shapes that allow for the maximum amount of exposure to sunlight throughout the course of a day.
Depending on how twisted the strips of material are, the panels may be able to trace the sun’s path throughout an entire day. The design takes inspiration from nature to accomplish a feat that up until now, only heavy and energy hungry motors could do.
The panels were almost as effective as the conventional panels used today. They were 36 percent more efficient than stationary solar panels, and 40 percent more efficient than motorized units meant to follow the sun’s path. They are 10 percent of the weight of a normal panel, which makes them much easier to install on rooftops.
Researchers hope that their design will help to even further reduce the cost of solar energy, especially at a time when deciding where our energy will come from over the next century could determine the course of humanity as we know it.