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Nat Commun. 2015 Sep 8;6:8092. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9092.

Dynamic kirigami structures for integrated solar tracking.

Author information

1
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.
2
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.
3
School of Art and Design, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.

Abstract

Optical tracking is often combined with conventional flat panel solar cells to maximize electrical power generation over the course of a day. However, conventional trackers are complex and often require costly and cumbersome structural components to support system weight. Here we use kirigami (the art of paper cutting) to realize novel solar cells where tracking is integral to the structure at the substrate level. Specifically, an elegant cut pattern is made in thin-film gallium arsenide solar cells, which are then stretched to produce an array of tilted surface elements which can be controlled to within ±1°. We analyze the combined optical and mechanical properties of the tracking system, and demonstrate a mechanically robust system with optical tracking efficiencies matching conventional trackers. This design suggests a pathway towards enabling new applications for solar tracking, as well as inspiring a broader range of optoelectronic and mechanical devices.

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