Modern solar power technology uses photovoltaic (PV) cells made from silicon to generate electrical energy by converting radiation from the sun into electricity. So far solar panels have been used to provide energy for emergency telephones to orbiting satellites and spacecraft and everything in between, as well as sourcing energy for homes and buildings around the world. Solar power currently accounts for 0.5% of the world’s total electricity resources.
But just what does the future of solar power hold?
The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that solar energy will provide almost 25% of the world’s electricity supply by 2050 and scientists are constantly working on new and innovative ways to improve the design of the solar panel.
On that note, researchers at a university in Boston have discovered that 3-dimensional photovoltaic panel designs may be the way to go in the future. MIT Engineering Professor Jeffrey Grossman was inspired by the way trees spread their leaves to collect more sunlight, so he and his team designed a solar panel system made from a desk covered in miniature PV panels
which would hopefully capture more solar radiation than a conventional 2D solar panel.
The result? Although the weather was overcast and rainy, Professor Grossman found that the new and improved design collected almost as much energy as a flat panel on a clear, sunny day. So perhaps we can look forward to seeing 3-dimensional solar panels scattered around cities as statues or urban monuments in the not-too-distant future.