Thomas Edison–Twisting Solar Panels

RECIPE: How to make a twisting solar panel that follows the sun:

  • Blend in equal parts of solar engineer, material scientist and kirigami expert
  • Simmer at moderate heat in creative collegiate laboratory
  • Add dashes of Thomas Edison, a solar advocate from way back in 1910
  • Serve in full sunlight

This delightful recipe comes out of the University of Michigan, where researchers twisted, folded and cut thin film panels (kirigami style) already mounted on a sheet of Kapton plastic.

Twisting Solar Panels

Edison at his Chemistry tableBecause of the unique design of these panels, they are able to track the sun as it moves through the daytime sky. Pull both sides of the panels and do this in synch with the sun’s motion and the panels follow the sun! Check it out.

With this twisting capability, the gallium arsenide based solar panels are able to capture 20-40% more energy per year than the traditional fixed-in-place flat panels. To equip solar panels to track the sun with traditional, mechanized tracking hardware is often prohibitively expensive; but this flexing design is certainly going to change the game for the economics of solar system tracking.

Stay tuned all you photovoltaic enthusiasts … this proof-of-concept technology has a very bright future indeed!

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said … “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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