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Earth Science Technology

MIT Making Super Efficient Origami Solar Panels 140

Posted by timothy
from the leaping-frogs-would-be-cool dept.
ByronScott writes "Could the next solar panels be in the shapes of origami cranes? They could be if MIT power engineering professor Jeffrey Grossman has his say. Standard flat solar panels are only optimized to capture sunlight at one point of the sun's trajectory — otherwise they need automated tracking systems to follow the sun. But Grossman found that folded solar cell systems could produce constant power throughout the day sans tracking and his new designs are up to two and a half times more efficient per comparative length and width than traditional flat arrays."
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MIT Making Super Efficient Origami Solar Panels

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  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday April 08, 2010 @01:39PM (#31780060) Homepage Journal

    It's an interesting, nerdy endeavor, but less practical than automated tracking systems; the expensive part of solar is the panels themselves. From TFA: His new designs are up to two and a half times more efficient per comparative length and width than traditional flat arrays.

    If solar cells were free, than this would indeed be more efficient, and if there's limited space thay MAY be more practical.

    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @01:49PM (#31780200) Journal

      But space is often limited, because we don't want to cover the landscape in solar panels. But we can put them in places that are already build-up.

      And automated tracking systems need more maintenance then fixed systems, that is why roof top solar panels of various sorts don't tend to track. Better accept the lesser efficiency then risk having to have maintenance done on a roof that without solar panels can go for decades without maintenance.

      I just found the shapes puzzling, got to wonder how the sunlight enters that first blue one with the spiral in it. It is an intresting idea, but I wonder if they are usable on a roof, some look like their would be really good at catching the wind (read blowing off).

      • by Fnord666 (889225)

        I just found the shapes puzzling, got to wonder how the sunlight enters that first blue one with the spiral in it. It is an intresting idea, but I wonder if they are usable on a roof, some look like their would be really good at catching the wind (read blowing off).

        According to TFA, they used genetic algorithms to evolve the design, so there really isn't a good explanation for the shapes. They just happen!

        • by mpeskett (1221084)
          Even if the shape was found without being explicitly designed,we should still be able to see how it works once the algorithm's found it. It might not be intuitive; if it was we'd have designed it that way ourselves, but unintuitive doesn't mean incomprehensible
      • "But space is often limited, because we don't want to cover the landscape in solar panels."

        then form them in pyramids yourself, so now a panel is always facing the sun, but you're buying four panels instead of just one and a cheap light sensing (same sensor in dawn/dusk lights) tracking system
        • by karnal (22275)

          Actually, wouldn't you only need 3? Aim the panels so that the "back" is always in the shadow. Of course, I'm biased - being in the northern hemisphere, the sun is either directly overhead in it's highest position or to the south.

      • Totally infeasible (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gr8_phk (621180)
        He may be getting more light onto the array, but there is a huge problem with this. There is a relationship between voltage and current for cells that provides peak power (max efficiency) at a particular operating point. In other words, by changing the "load" on a cell you change its efficiency. A controller is usually used for a string of cells to keep them operating at peak efficiency. Since a string is normally connected in series, they all have to operate with the same current, and since the peak effici
        • by dgatwood (11270)

          If I understand correctly, they act like a constant current source, so couldn't this problem solved by wiring the array of cells in parallel and limiting your current draw to the total current that all the cells provide put together? Or am I missing something?

          Failing that, you're using a silicon substrate anyway; I'd think you could simply dope the back side of the silicon and put the controller on the same wafer... or are we talking about large capacitance requirements or something?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by 517714 (762276)

          Aside from the electronics issues - this objection could become less important with time thanks to economies of scale. Fabrication of the physical structures would be costly - One can easily put a thousand square feet of panels on a 2000 sq ft home, but when the structure sticks up 15 feet or more to get good efficiency? The wind loading would be higher than the same output panels arranged in a plane. It looks like these would be a bit of a problem to clean too.

          I really hate graphs with non zero baselin

    • by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @02:14PM (#31780520)

      It's an interesting, nerdy endeavor, but less practical than automated tracking systems; the expensive part of solar is the panels themselves. From TFA: His new designs are up to two and a half times more efficient per comparative length and width than traditional flat arrays.

      If solar cells were free, than this would indeed be more efficient, and if there's limited space thay MAY be more practical.

      Exactly!
              consider the simplified case of sun's arc not moving with the seasons. then you could put down the panels in a 90 degree zig-zag. this way all light that is reflected is assured to strike a second panel. this would dramatically increase the efficiency and reduce the variation throughout the day. but it would take 1.4 times as much panels to cover the same area as a flat panel. if you go for the 3D full corner cube then it's 1.7 times as much.

      If you were to spread this out you would have 40% more area. this would mean that at peak power you'd get 1.4 times as much, but at obtuse incidence angles were the reflection is high you'd take a loss. the trade off point is when the reflective loss is greater than 40% I think.

      another problem with a highly faceted desing is going to be in making the nominally circular cells conform to odd shaped facets, and for mass producing these. If you look at conventional panels you see they cut they often circular cells into half-circles then put these down in a row laternating the directions. this allows them to make mass producable long sections that dont have as much dead space when the components are placed side by side. If you have facets of differenting shapes you have to make eachone differently and the chips may have to be cut differently.

      The best part of this idea is the continuous power level however.

      • by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @02:24PM (#31780656)

        Looking at the slides more carefully, I think there's some substantially strange assumptions being made. Notice that he starts from completely random and non-symmetric shapes and these are evolved in genetic algorithms. the results he shows are all highly symmetric. some have 3 C4 rotation axes.

        this makes no sense to me. the suns seasonal variation and arcs do not illuminate the ground symmetrically. So it is hard to see why it would evolve to a symmetric structure.

        so there have to be some assumptions here the article is not exposing. like enforcement of symmetry.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          so there have to be some assumptions here the article is not exposing. like enforcement of symmetry.

          It took me a long time to find the real article [aip.org]. I think this paragraph addresses your concerns.

          Interestingly, all the GA structures show similar patterns in their shapes, even for different heights. They contain no holes running across the bounding volume, which is necessary to intercept most of the incoming sunlight, and (less intuitively) they all have triangles coinciding with the 12 edges of the boundin

          • Of course, is is pretty darn funny. Turns out after all this genetic algorithm stuff. A very simple structure is close enough to optimal to make other more complex structures pointless.

            While I can't get to your actual link, I suspect that the picture marked (b) in the slashdot linked article is the simple but still very efficient configuration.

            In all, it is a cool approach. Even cooler if he can start putting some of the other assumptions (ease of cleaning, cost of manufacturing different shapes of panel

          • by goombah99 (560566)

            Hmmm..... So if I had to guess then the symmetry is an artifact of the bounding box. That's curious. You'd think it would have residual asymmetry from the sun trajectory. I suspect there is some funny assumptions being imposed directly or indirectly. e.g. perhaps the layoput of the alelles in the genetic algorithms itself slightly favors self similar patterns

      • by ThreeGigs (239452)

        another problem with a highly faceted desing is going to be in making the nominally circular cells conform to odd shaped facets, and for mass producing these. If you look at conventional panels you see they cut they often circular cells into half-circles then put these down in a row laternating the directions. this allows them to make mass producable long sections that dont have as much dead space when the components are placed side by side

        That's because nobody has thought to slice the silicon ingots _lengt

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by godel_56 (1287256)

          another problem with a highly faceted desing is going to be in making the nominally circular cells conform to odd shaped facets, and for mass producing these.

          That's because nobody has thought to slice the silicon ingots _lengthwise_ which would yield long (although varying width) rectangular strips, which could be cut into square or rectangular shapes which would fit more densely into square panels.

          Already been done: see www.sliver.com.au.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by networkBoy (774728)

          hopefully that is in jest.
          In case it wasn't:
          the fabrication technology required balanced wafers for chemical deposition (spin deposition).
          If you had odd shaped wafers you would have to come up with an amazing new process. Also, your machines are big enough already, I don't think they want to make bigger machines. Finally, 300mm wafers look to be the largest doable with Si, else they start to break under their own weight. Same reason GaAs tech hasn't gone to 200mm (not sure if it even is at 100mm honestly

          • by ThreeGigs (239452)

            It wasn't in jest. It's my understanding that solar cells are generally made using vapor deposition processes, which don't require spinning. Spin deposition is generally used for photoresist application, isn't it? I can't think of any use for photoresist on photovoltaics. You're confusing semiconductor manufacturing with solar cell manufacturing.

    • by radtea (464814)

      If solar cells were free, than this would indeed be more efficient, and if there's limited space thay MAY be more practical.

      Or one could go with concentrators, which have the same effect and don't require any more solar cell surface (in fact they require less.)

      I wouldn't be the least surprised if his fancy genetic algorithms came up with something pretty close to the Winston cone, which is pretty much the ideal concentrator shape. Cover the interior of one with semi-reflective solar cells and you'd get considerably greater efficiency per opening area than you'd get with a flat panel.

      So scientists of the future take note: your i

    • by FauxReal (653820)

      It's an interesting, nerdy endeavor, but less practical than automated tracking systems; the expensive part of solar is the panels themselves. From TFA: His new designs are up to two and a half times more efficient per comparative length and width than traditional flat arrays.

      If solar cells were free, than this would indeed be more efficient, and if there's limited space thay MAY be more practical.

      Maybe they're factoring in the cost of making a flat solar cell able to track the sun, you'd need a control system and a motor which both have a monetary and electrical cost to run.

      • by iamhassi (659463)
        The motor and light sensor can be run off the panel, and they only move small increments about a dozen times a day
    • Baloney! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There is a certain amount of sunlight incident on the earth surface, app. 1.2KW/m^2 times the cosine of the suns angle from the normal, on a perfectly clear day.

      Just covering the earth surface with solar cells will catch all that power, minus a small amount of extra reflection at low angles.

      There is no way to improve total power beyond that.

      Only if solar panels are very expensive compared to their supporting structure does it pay to align them in a way that the Sunlight is hitting them normally (at an right

    • by sxltrex (198448)

      Not to mention mass. The more mass the more expensive it is to put in space, and that mass also has to come at the expense of other equipment, supplies, fuel, etc.

    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      And note to the easily bamboozled: the significant cost here is energy, not dollars. Will you get and use more energy from these things over the course of their working life than you put in to make them? Are they generators, or just very slow discharge batteries?
  • by EkriirkE (1075937)
    This just in! Having multiple spot lights pointing in different directions spreads light in more places!

    [patent pending]
  • by tomhudson (43916) < ... <nosduh.arabrab>> on Thursday April 08, 2010 @01:40PM (#31780084) Journal
    So, we could use these folding panels to power computers folding@home, and the waste heat can warm our houses as a green solution to heating. Just be ready to spend more of that other green folding stuff ...
    • So, we could use these folding panels to power computers folding@home, and the waste heat can warm our houses as a green solution to heating. Just be ready to spend more of that other green folding stuff ...

      I heard you like folding, so we put an oraigami solar panel on your computer, so you can fold while you fold.

      \I'm so sorry

  • shaded panels? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    i thought that if any portion of the panel was shaded, power is interrupted because current setups are inverter-limited.

    • by bkr1_2k (237627)

      Power isn't interrupted, it's just reduced a little bit. Maybe that's what you meant. In either case, this allows more surfaces to be "collecting" than shading, from the looks of the few images I could see, which would still be a net gain, rather than a loss. It is probably why the efficiency is only 2.5 times as high rather than something like 5 times as high, though.

    • When solar cells are connected in a series string, the current output of the string is limited by the current output of the cell (or paralleled set of cells) with the least current output.

      Typical solar panels are either a single series string wound serpentine style back-and-forth over the panel, or a set of several series strings connected in parallel with paralleling jumpers across them every few cells. In the first case shading out any single cell drops the output of the whole panel. In the second, loca

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 08, 2010 @01:47PM (#31780172)
    Great, this will work wonders for my zero-cost zero-thickness self-intersecting perfectly rigid solar panels. I just hope my spherical vacuum-chickens don't try to nest in it.
    • by evanbd (210358)

      Great, this will work wonders for my zero-cost zero-thickness self-intersecting perfectly rigid solar panels. I just hope my spherical vacuum-chickens don't try to nest in it.

      I recently upgraded to the clear spherical vacuum chickens, so I no longer have this problem. I highly recommend them.

  • by rainmouse (1784278) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @01:48PM (#31780176)
    The Earth is already covered in efficient origami solar panels, its just that regular people call them plants.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rallion (711805)

      The linked page actually mentions that the guy who came up with these was inspired by the way trees grow.

      • by scorp1us (235526)

        Actually what your parent is talking about is the Sunflower, which follows the sun daily, not over the long term. If we could harness the same technique we could have tracking systems that are basically free.

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          I don't think they were talking about sunflowers, they said origami, as in shape, not tracking, which is what these new panels are designed to obviate.

          Still it's an interesting idea... except we did already adopt the technique in the same sense we adopted the technique of turning sunlight into usable energy. I'm not sure why you think sunflower's tracking ability is free. Any man-made replica is almost certainly not going to be, at least not existing ones. What are we supposed to learn from the sunflowe

        • by thepike (1781582)

          I don't think they're talking about sunflowers either. The fact that the flowers move doesn't help with gathering sunlight for energy. For that, it'd have to be the green leaf surfaces moving. But plants are not (generally) flat. Sure a given leaf is flat, but the whole tree (or bush or whatever) is this big complicated structure so that basically wherever the sun hits, it hits a part of the plant doing photosynthesis. Tracking can help too, but efficiency is greatly increased by having a more complex

          • by dgatwood (11270)

            Well, that's not entirely true. Some plants' leaves also track the sun (heliotropism) on a daily basis, too, not just flowers. And there's also phototropism that gets more of the plant out from under the shadow cast by other plants, though this is a much slower process.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Of course those also have automated tracking systems built in.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      All that is old is new again; they used solar powered vehicles for millinea. They were called "horses".

      • by iamhassi (659463)
        By your bad analogy we're also solar powered... Omg solar powered humans! (patent pending)
        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          By your bad analogy we're also solar powered

          Analogy? It isn't an analogy at all, horses are transportation, not analogous to automobiles but the same thing. And yes, like horses, we too are solar powered, as is all life.

          And if Monsanto and some other bioengineering companies get their way, someday there may actally be a patent on humans, or at least their genomes.

      • by HybridST (894157)
        At the risk of potentially melting a server somewhere in Taiwan or somewhere, here's a link to part 1 of a seven-part documentary, "The Private Life of Plants." http://www.megavideo.com/?v=QM24N1FL [megavideo.com] They actually move quite a lot on longer timescales than our meatbag-brains can usually appreciate.
      • by vegiVamp (518171)
        If you're going to call horses solar-powered, then so are we, and so are our current cars.
    • by Sleepy (4551)

      >The Earth is already covered in efficient origami solar panels, its just that regular people call them plants.

      That's only half of it.. plants ALSO track the sun so they have both benefits...

    • The Earth is already covered in efficient origami solar panels, its just that regular people call them plants.

      It also bothers me how little science has gone into researching plants. We know they help convert Carbon Dioxide back into Oxygen, but we don't know how exactly. The only resources they require to do so naturally occur on Earth, sunlight and water being the big two. And we say there is a looming crisis ahead because we've pumped too much CO2 into the atmosphere.

      So, this process has been around since before mankind, that would essentially help to reverse the negative effects we've created, if only we could m

      • It also bothers me how little science has gone into researching plants.

        Speak for yourself. We know *exactly* how plants produce O2 and hydrocarbons (more or less) from H2O, CO2, and sunlight. We know the structure of the proteins involved, etc.

        It's just ridiculously impractical for us to do it on a large scale -- it's very complex (read: expensive).

      • by Curien (267780)

        In addition to the point others have already addressed that we do in fact know exactly how plants convert CO2 to O2, the process is no panacea. The carbon doesn't just disappear -- it needs to be stored somewhere (google "carbon sequestration"). In the case of plants, it is stored in the plant itself; when the plant dies, it's all released. Thus the net benefit of plants for reducing carbon is actually 0, so naively emulating plants gets us nothing. Even worse, reforestation is no solution -- it merely sequ

    • The Earth is already covered in efficient origami solar panels, its just that regular people call them plants.

      Origami, yes, but not efficient. Plants are typically 3-6% efficient in capturing sunlight and converting to biomass. When you consider that the biomass will have to be dried and then converted to electricity by some means (burned to power a steam generator? run through a direct carbon fuel cell?), the efficiency is much worse than even those figures. A 10% efficient PV panel converting 10% of the

      • If you want cost efficiency, though, in terms of human money and time needed for harvesting, etc, plants win. For example, our wood (firewood heat) taken directly off the woodlot. Basically just a perpetual harvest as long as you don't clear cut it. You can't touch it with any other technique short of building entirely underground way below frost or summer heat levels. Cheaper than electricity (any source including nukes), cheaper than propane or natgas, cheaper than fuel oil. And I have built solar thermal

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          It is only cheaper if you time is worthless.
          I have used wood heat and the time investment in cutting, splitting, lighting and fueling is enormous.

          • enormous?? (Score:2, Interesting)

            by zogger (617870)

            ...maybe I am just better at it....it's certainly not an enormous effort in terms of energy used or my time. I find it very cost effective, plus fun. It has actual value there as well to me. Especially splitting, quite relaxing in a physical fitness/exercise way, I actually look forward to it, same as some people look forward to a gaming session on the computer, or a round of golf.

            And wood, being very renewable and sustainable, is rather a nice way to go. It also has a very good benefit as it

            • by wings (27310)

              I've considered wood heat.
              How much wood do you use annually for heating?
              What kind of acreage does it take to sustain that rate of usage?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How is this new? Similar things have been done for at least a decade now.... Oh MIT news, is there anything you cant claim credit for.

  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @02:07PM (#31780426)
    Folded Solar Cells
    Capturing sunlight all day
    It's been done before
  • A Noticeable Trend (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @02:07PM (#31780430) Homepage Journal
    So, I've come to the conclusion that anytime anyone claims to be working with "super-, ultra-, or mega-" efficient anything, the product never seems to make it to market. Can we start using some buzzwords that actually mean something, like maybe, "MIT works on practical, efficient solar cells." Or perhaps, "MIT works on deployable, efficient solar cells." Or maybe, "MIT works on manufacturable, efficient solar cells."

    Then those announcements might mean something. Wait, you mean to tell me that the project likely isn't practical, deployable, or manufacturable? Oh, well.....
    • Self-response. After RTFA, it seems that the news item, "MIT Making Super Efficient Origami Solar Panels," isn't even remotely correct. Apparently, the professor and students working on this project, have managed to develop a computer program that designs solar panel geometry to maximize solar absorption throughout a day. So, MIT isn't making anything. No new solar cell technology has come of this. Basically, some computer modeling has determined the optimum configuration for something given some input para
  • by CODiNE (27417) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @02:15PM (#31780536) Homepage

    but 10x harder to clean.

    • by Mekkah (1651935)
      and 10x more possible mechanical problems.
    • by Twinbee (767046)

      Cover them in translucent plastic?

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        A thin sheet of clear plastic transmits 96% of light and it goes downhill from there. Also, plastic scratches, so you basically need glass. Glass breaks, so it has to be thick. Thick means heavy... oh man, this is going nowhere good. It's a nifty thought experiment but the holographic collector overlay makes infinitely more sense in almost any context.

  • A simple cylinder, replicated many many times, would be easier and more reliable to produce:

    http://solyndra.com/ [solyndra.com]

    Sometimes I think guys from MIT have a degree in over-engineering :-)

    • indeed, cleaning and maintenance would be difficult with such a complex shape. mod parent up.
  • Please editors... at least link to the original press release [mit.edu] if not the research paper [aip.org].

    What's the point of linking to other blogs that have crappy internal links all over the article?
  • Efficiency per unit area?

    Efficiency per "swept area"?

    Efficiency per surface area?

    His construct appears to require more than 2.5 times the material of a flat collector, and generates only about 30% more energy at peak. How does it compare to a flat collector with the same surface area, or to three flat collectors angled for morning, noon, and evening sun?

  • Here is his 2003 talk on designing solar collectors. [ted.com]

  • Make solar panels with the individual cells pointing in all directions (except down).
    And build in a bunch of mirrors into every little space to reflect the light onto the cells.
    HEY: crinkly solar panels instead of flat. With mirrored edges. What the fuck; it's obvious. Picks up light from all directions.
    Another good idea: solar cells on rotating disco balls. Finally some use for those pieces of shit.
  • by tekrat (242117) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @03:17PM (#31781296) Homepage Journal

    Solar cells that are right around the corner!

    Didn't some 8-yr old kid at a science fair demonstrate cells that were 30% more efficient a few months back? And before that there was some researcher who figured out how to make 'em 30% cheaper, and another guy who figured out how to make 'em with paint.

    All these stories (heck, if I had the free time, I'd find the Slashdot stories that point to these new miracle products) keep saying that "real soon now", we'll have paint-on, dirt cheap, 110% efficient solar panels that will make so much electrcity, you won't need a $3000 bloom-box to turn natural gas into electricity for pennies a day.

    Why, electricity will be so cheap, we won't even have to meter it!

    Sure, real soon now. And yet, every time I try and get a quote on mounting a few panels on my roof, the cost is $25,000 and it will take me 30 years to break-even on the electricty. Where's the efficient, cheap PRODUCT that will directly enable ME to put panels on my roof?

    How many more YEARS do we have to wait? Or are all these researchers just making press releases and not actually making solar panels? And why aren't solar panels being made?

    If all this tech si so f'ing great, you'd think some company, even a Chinese company, would be rushing to make them, even under patent license because they would corner the market if the panels were cheap and more efficient!

    • Great post.

      It's almost like there is some other force at work (economics) that has to be "just right" for success. Interesting...

      Yours is a nice, welcome, and fresh perspective here at /.
    • by raygundan (16760) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @04:16PM (#31781996) Homepage

      "Sure, real soon now. And yet, every time I try and get a quote on mounting a few panels on my roof, the cost is $25,000 and it will take me 30 years to break-even on the electricty."

      Out of curiosity, where are you located? We did an install last year, and our payback time at the current electric rates is about seven years. If you assume the rates rise at the average 8% per year that they've been doing, it's even quicker. But we're in Arizona, where solar is a no-brainer. The panels have a 25-year *warranty* and a 40-year life is not unreasonable. The inverter will need replacing about once every 12 years, but that's a trivial cost compared to the savings. Even if we're only in the house for another ten years, we'll likely double our investment, before the resale value of the system when we sell the house is even taken into account.

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:04PM (#31782544) Journal
        A lot of states offer subsidies for installing solar panels. My understanding is that Arizona is one of them. So when you say it cost you $X to install, it didn't really.

        He has a point. As soon as solar panels are cheap enough, everyone will be doing them, no legislation needed. And by now they should be, based on the stories we've read.
        • by raygundan (16760)

          There are a LOT of different subsidies and credits involved. Arizona's state involvement is a small tax credit that caps out at $1000, if memory serves. The biggest one is actually the power company-- SRP and APS both will give you something like $3/watt up front for system installations. Not far behind is the massive 30% federal tax credit. I'm certainly not pretending otherwise.

    • by Surt (22457)

      You know, if you have your own solar panels, and a battery, you CAN get off the metered net. Not that you'd want to, because in a lot of places you can get paid for what you're not using. Does 'unmetered' qualify as too cheap to meter?

    • "If all this tech si so f'ing great, you'd think some company, even a Chinese company, would be rushing to make them, even under patent license because they would corner the market if the panels were cheap and more efficient!"

      It's unlikely for a super-efficient solar technology to ever make it to market while the oil companies are so big and powerful. They'll buy up promising solar and other alternative energy companies and patents and then bury the technology so it doesn't interfere with their existing bu

      • You know 40 years ago people were saying that the "big oil companies" were buying up patents so the 100MPG carburetors [snopes.com] wouldn't get to market and destroy their business plan, so you know what happened, the patents ran out and companies started make these wonder devices and they either worked less efficient than the modern computer controlled fuel injector systems we have now or they didn't work at all. If I had invented such a wondrous device, why would I or anyone sell out to one company when I could licen

      • Given that oil companies are major producers of the current solar panels it seems silly to blame them.

        Example: Arco did major R&D, productized, went to market, and at one point was the largest supplier of solar panels with a 45% market share. Eventually others were out-competing them, so they sold their solar panel operation to BP where it is still going strong.

        Oil companies realize that they are really ENERGY companies. They also know that most of the money they collect for oil products goes to the

    • by Mspangler (770054)

      "How many more YEARS do we have to wait? "

      three to five. At least. Welcome to the world of hardware.

      It can easily take five years to decide you want a plant, find a site, design the plant, then get the permits, then buy the equipment, erect the building, install the equipment, install and program the control systems, train the operators, commission the plant, and work the kinks out to get to full production rates.

      Been there, done that more than once.

    • Where's the efficient, cheap PRODUCT that will directly enable ME to put panels on my roof?

      Aisle five; in between the reels of room-temperature superconductor and the home fusion plants.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "MIT Researchers create computer models of Solar cells that look like Origami"

    What is it with all the Slashdot posters lately? Does no one even read or try to comprehend an article before spewing it on the page? Is there that much competition for getting "OMG, 1st Post!" that people can't take a minute to RTFA and see what it actually means? It seems like just about every name I see posting is guilty of this in some degree.

  • by ivi (126837) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @04:06PM (#31781884)

    If I get this article's point, the cost of the system's solar paneling would rise, since more area would be needed.

    Now, the making of solar panels already use up more energy than they're able to produce in their lifetimes...
    wny make the energy (& $) cost any greater.

    Can the same effect be had, eg, from arranging mirrors to beam sunlight in from different angles, as the sun moves?

    Mirrors are far cheaper to make (in energy & $'s)

    • by raygundan (16760)

      "Now, the making of solar panels already use up more energy than they're able to produce in their lifetimes...
      wny make the energy (& $) cost any greater."

      No, no they don't. Manufacturing energy payback is around two years on average, with variations for manufacturing technique. The panels are typically warranted for 25 years, and will probably last 40 or more. I'd say it's a fairly good return on energy investment.

      • "Now, the making of solar panels already use up more energy than they're able to produce in their lifetimes... wny make the energy (& $) cost any greater."

        No, no they don't. Manufacturing energy payback is around two years on average, with variations for manufacturing technique.

        Not to mention that, even if it wasn't outright false, it's an apples-to-oranges comparison

        For starters, much of the energy cost of making panels is in the form of raw heat, not electricity. Nobody in his right MIND would burn

  • Really looks to me as if one would throw a shadow on the other.
  • 2500x more expensive

  • I wonder how these cells would be maintained? A surface with that many creases, folds, and even cups, would fill with water, bird poop and more in no time.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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