New kirigami-inspired solar cells that are used for optical tracking (of the sun) are developed by scientists at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (UM).
Kirigami is an ancient Japanese paper art, in which the paper is cut using different patterns.
Matt Shlian, a professor of three dimensional foundations and paper engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, was the first to come up with this idea. Although several other gears of sun-tracking already exist, there is always place for improvement.
“The problem of tracking the sun has been there for years. There are lots of ways that involve motors and gears. [This design is] meant to be lighter and more elegant,” stated Max Shtein, lead author of the study and professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan.
The new solar cells are able to bend in order to modify the angles on their surface. Using a motorised mechanism, the structure of the solar cells is gradually stretched out. The bending and stretching is possible because of the cuts that are placed strategically in the material.
The solar cells are made out of Kapton, a polyimide film that manages to remain stable when temperatures range from minus 452 to plus 752 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 269 to plus 400 degrees Celsius). The scientists made parallel cuts in the Kapton, that were not perfectly aligned.
The material was built by Aaron Lamoureux, a student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Kyusang Lee, a student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Without using any heat, they fused together the polyimide film to the metal surface of the semiconductor.
when it comes to solar tracking, this new design is a lot lighter and much cheaper because it does not need additional equipment such as large motors, in order to work. People could spend less money and get the same amount of solar energy as they did with old solar panels, Shtein said.
Shtein and his colleagues are hopeful that their product will be launched on the market in the near future. According to them, this innovative design could also be used in making acoustic tools, or electromagnetic devices.
Image Source: nationalgeographic