The solar industry is very, very focused on improving efficiency and reducing the cost. Our attempt here with this research is to propose a new way of looking at these structures and saying, well, you can use existing materials and nothing really needs to change very much. You just shape them in different ways that gives you this benefit. Kirigami is a Japanese art that's related to origami where origami is really about folding of things and kirigami is about cutting things. A colleague of mine who is an artist, Matthew Shlian, he had some interesting.
New shapes and when you pulled on the sheet of paper the cuts would sort of begin to buckle and deform in a very controlled way and so I realized at that point that we could look at that structure as a hyperminiaturized version of solar trackers. Conventional solar tracking has been used for many, many years. The mechanism itself cost quite a bit of extra money. What people end up doing as they say, well, since the mechanisms gonna cost all this extra money. we might as well put a really big panel and then eventually you end up with.
Something that's really big and really heavy. When you think about putting this type of thing on a rooftop it's very very difficult and in most cases is just purely impossible. It was a fairly lengthy process because the things that you do in paper don't automatically translate to other materials and so I started talking to my colleague, Stephen Forrest, about using some of their very high efficiency gallium arsenide solar cells. They're pretty thin, less than 2 microns thick that's ten to fifty times thinner than the thickness of a human hair. What the new design allows us.
To do in contrast to conventional tracking is it basically allows us to work with the same form factor. It doesn't catch the wind, it doesn't weigh any more than a conventional solar panel might and the thing that it buys you is that you can use less semiconductor to gather the same amount of energy. A third less material to generate the same total amount of energy that you would otherwise. Which means that in turn that I could decrease the cost of installation because there are fewer panels to install but you do require little bit of extra area. When you.
Multiply it by the total number of solar installations it's kind of like a billion dollar value proposition potentially. I guess it looks simple enough, kind of like something that you could do on your kitchen table, things don't have to be complicated for them to work. If this can be shown to be quite reliable, then the net benefit could be quite big. V.O. These candies which are already pretty soft should be about 10 to 100 times stiffer than the silicone. So the material that we're working with in the lab is really really soft.
Increasing efficiency of solar panel
Generally when we orient a solar panel in a particular direction the Sun light will be. incident at various angles throughout the day instead of the perpendicular incidence it will be incident at various angles by which we will not be able to get maximum output the output will be maximum only at a particular time of the day but when we orient the solar panel perpendicularly to direction of the sunlight then we'll be able to achieve more output this can be done by attaching the stepper motor which is run by a.
A Conversation with Mike Wood
MUSIC PLAYING ANDY Can you tell us what's different and what's special about your panels And what's it called first of MIKE What we have here is a twoaxis PV tracker. So it moves in the horizontal rotational direction, called the azimuth, and vertical direction, that we call elevation. And just like a sunflower, it faces the sunrise, and then moves throughout the day and then faces the sunset. And we say that you get almost a minimum of 40 more energy collected by following the sun. So now if you do that for less than 40 extra cost, you're in business.
You've got a positive return on investment. ANDY So essentially you have a more efficient system than a typical is that a fair way for us to think about it We've defined efficiency in terms of using things. And we've also defined efficiency of, say, fossil fuel power plants. So is that a fair way to say that for a given area of PV panel, you're generating more electricity, so that's an increase in efficiency MIKE I think that's completely accurate. And especially, when you think about some of the either rare earth materials or even potentially hazardous materials.
That are going into high grade solar panels, it's really effective to be using those materials in the most efficient way you possibly can. ANDY So for a given constructed panel, you want to optimize the amount of solar energy you're capturing and the amount of electricity you're generating. MIKE You got it. ANDY So that's a good point. And that sometimes makes me wonder, should we not put any panels in snowy, cloudy New England, and put them all in the southwestern United States, for example MIKE Yep, they say you could power the entire country with a small corner.
Of Arizona. But you know, the truth is then you'd have a huge distribution problem in getting all the power up here to New England. And the truth is, while we don't have quite as much resource as Arizona, we do have 23 the resource. Germany is one of the most progressive countries when it comes to renewable energy, and Vermont has more per unit solar resource than Germany does. ANDY Mike, we haven't introduced the negawatt, a term that Amory Lovins, among others, uses. So do you mind defining what's a negawatt.
Printing Australias largest solar cells
Dr Scott Watkins We're really pleased to commission what is now Australia's largest facility for printing thin film solar cells. This equipment that has been purchased over the last few months and commissioned in our labs here in Melbourne will enable us to print A3 size solar cells. We've rapidly scaled up making our devices from fingernail size in the lab to A3 size devices that are fully printed now. And at this size we're definitely up there with the best in the world. In the short term we're looking for applications in consumer devices.
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