"The design achieves the same as large monitoring panels but condenses it into an almost flat surface," explains Aaron Lamoureux, researcher at the University of Michigan and co-author of the study published this week in Nature Communications. This engineer has not been alone when designing these plates, as it is a joint effort between material experts and artists.
Thanks to them it has been possible to develop efficient solar panels but at the same time light enough to be installed in any home without the need to reinforce the roof. "The beauty of this design is that nothing changes when it is installed, but on a small scale the differences are staggering," says Max Shtein, another of the researchers involved.
It is said that a solar panel can follow or track the sun when the degree of the sun's rays does not matter too much. Under normal conditions, it would be best if these reached the cells perpendicularly, but with the right design it is possible to keep the efficiency quite stable even if they do so at much sharper angles.
This is what the prototype developed by Lamoureux and Shtein has achieved. The secret is in the structure: instead of being a single giant plate, it is made up of a large number of small cells that move. Thanks to their shape, they can collect the sun's rays optimally: if the monitoring panels improve storage by 40%, the new design achieves percentages of 36% without being bulky or heavy.
To come up with the right design, the team started by playing kirigami from the beginning, with paper and scissors. The next step consisted of working with plastic and lasers to find the most suitable configuration. Interestingly, the simpler figures showed greater efficiency than the complex ones.