MIT Does Solar Energy in 3D
Solar energy is one alternative to energy production that we’ve covered here before. The sun isn’t likely to run out any time soon, and, even better, doesn’t require spending money on transportation to use, which makes it green as a blade of grass.
But it has its challenges. One of the problems with the technology is the size of solar panels required to power anything useful. Enter MIT’s three-dimensional solar panel design. In place of the usual flat design, the MIT research team has created stacks of photovoltaic cells that are able to capture more sunlight, particularly in areas that are frequently cloudy or during the winter.
The team used a computer algorithm to determine the best shape for the solar array using variables such as time of day, month and weather conditions. They then took a prototype design into the field to confirm their research. The design provided more consistent energy over time than flat panels, increasing energy output by up to 20 times the norm.
The next step for the new design is figuring out a practical method of mass manufacturing that makes the tower affordable.
Even 10 years ago, this idea wouldn’t have been economically justified because the modules cost so much. The cost for silicon cells is a fraction of the total cost, a trend that will continue downward in the near future.
–Jeffrey Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg Career Development Associate Professor of Power Engineering at MIT
The research team has published their discovery in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.
Below you’ll find a video that discusses solar energy.