Even with the impressive and continuous advances in solar technologies, the question remains: How can we efficiently collect energy from sunlight coming from varying angles from sunrise to sunset?
Solar panels work best when sunlight hits them directly. To capture as much energy as possible, many solar arrays actively rotate towards the sun as it moves across the sky. This makes them more efficient, but also more expensive and complicated to build and maintain than a stationary system.
These active systems may not be necessary in the future. At Stanford University, engineering researcher Nina Vaidya designed an elegant device that can efficiently gather and concentrate light that falls on it, regardless of the angle and frequency of that light. A paper describing the system’s performance, and the theory behind it, is the cover story in the July issue of Microsystems & Nanoengineering, authored by Vaidya and her doctoral advisor Olav Solgaard, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford.
Lead author and engineering researcher Nina Vaidya is a 2013 DARE Fellow.