This Material Can Orient Itself Toward The Sun, Thus Enhancing The Efficiency Of Solar Panels
Aadhya Khatri - Nov 15, 2019
While the conventional solar panels can harvest only 24% of the Sun’s energy, the SunBOTs can bump that up to 90% simply by moving as the Sun shifts
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Inspired by the way sunflowers orient themselves toward the Sun as it moves across the sky, scientists have made an artificial material that possesses the same ability.
The material’s SunBOTs or the stem-like cylinders can capture up to 90% of the sunlight even when the Sun is at an oblique angle. According to Ximin He and her fellow scientists of the UCLA, the technology may someday be used to enhance the efficiency of solar panels, control robots, and desalinate water.
The SunBOTs can regulate themselves, move to the best position to absorb as much sunlight as possible, and then adjust to stay there as the Sun shifts.
What are behind this ability is the stem-like polymer with a diameter of only 1 mm and a nanomaterial responding to sunlight. While the nanomaterial receives the light and turns it into heat, the polymer shrinks as the temperature changes.
When the sunlight hits one side of the material, it gets hotter and contracts, thus making the top to bend toward the Sun. The other side cools down and stops the SunBOTs from moving. This process repeats as the Sun moves.
The initial SunBOTs were built with a hydrogel and gold nanoparticles, but later, the researchers found out that the liquid crystalline polymers and carbon black nanoparticles can be mixed and matched to achieve the same effect.
These SunBOTs can cover an entire surface and solve one of the most pressing issues of harvesting solar energy, which is the constant changing of sunlight’s directions.
While the conventional solar panels can harvest only 24% of the Sun’s energy, the SunBOTs can bump that up to 90% by merely moving as the Sun shifts.