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Solar Panels Twist and Turn to Track the Sun with Kirigami (VIDEO)

First Posted: Sep 11, 2015 07:30 AM EDT

There may be a new way to create more effective and efficient solar panel. Scientists have shown that by cutting solar cells into specific designs using kirigami, cells can track the sun's angle without having to tilt the whole solar panel.

Kirigami is a bit like origami, but allows cutting of paper in addition to the usual folding. By carefully cutting slits into a flexible solar cell, the researchers managed to create a sheet where the cells swivel as the two ends are pulled apart.

"The design takes what a large tracking solar panel does and condenses it into something that is essentially flat," said Aaron Lamoureux, lead author of the new paper, in a news release.

In fact, the new design was nearly as effective of conventional sun tracking solar panels. In addition, the new panels are 36 percent more efficient than stationary panels compared to 40 percent for traditional motorized units. In addition, the new panels are a tenth of the weight of the tracks, which make them ideal for home installation.

With that said, the system is still in the early stages of development. It's currently only really a proof-of concept. In order to actually install this system on a roof, it would need some kind of casing to protect it from the elements in addition to a system that automates the motion.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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