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Earth Science Technology

MIT Making Super Efficient Origami Solar Panels 140

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 rainmouse ( 1784278 ) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @02:48PM (#31780176)
    The Earth is already covered in efficient origami solar panels, its just that regular people call them plants.
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @02:49PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 08, 2010 @03:07PM (#31780418)

    Of course those also have automated tracking systems built in.

  • A Noticeable Trend (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @03:07PM (#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.....
  • by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @03:15PM (#31780536) Homepage

    but 10x harder to clean.

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @04:17PM (#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!

  • by ivi ( 126837 ) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:06PM (#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 517714 ( 762276 ) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @07:19PM (#31783526)

    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 baselines it makes it easy to miss that a 2 m high assembly is just 30% more efficient than a flat one. The fact that they do not indicate how much frontal area is assumed makes it a bit hard to assess the whole thing. Since this is a geometric exercise it will scale and one can get the same frontal area with multiple assemblies (four half height assemblies, nine third height, etc.) The obvious solution is to implement the structure on a micro scale on flat panels, and use those panels mounted simply.

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle