University of Michigan researchers have come up with a new way to track the sun as it moves across the sky, which could potentially boost energy generation in solar panels by 40 per cent.
Inspired by the Japanese art of Kirigami, the new design features flexible solar cells made of gallium arsenide strips that have been cut and mounted on a mechanised base.
With conventional solar panels sitting atop rooftops at a fixed angle, researchers say the flaw in the design is that energy absorption decreases once the sun changes position.
By making strategic cuts in solar film and attaching it to a simple tracking system, University of Michigan researchers found the new improved design was able to follow the sun throughout the day to capture its brightest rays.
Max Schtein, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan, told Technology Review, that the Kirigami-based approach makes it possible to generate more electricity while using the same amount of semiconducting material, and accomplishes this to nearly the same degree that conventional tracking systems do.
According to Schtein, the patterned film has been proven to collect 30 percent more solar energy than conventional cells would, however the panels would need to be twice as big.
“You’re stretching the solar cell, so you have to have room to stretch it into,” he told National Geographic.
Schtein says that while the new design has the potential to further develop rooftop solar systems into becoming more efficient, he says it would be more feasible for use on smaller aerospace applications.