WARF: P120269US01

Solar Cells Track Sun


Hongrui Jiang, Chensha Li, Ye Liu

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing a passive tracking mechanism that allows solar cells to continuously face the sun.
OVERVIEWMaximizing how much sunlight strikes a solar panel is one tactic to boost efficiency. Some approaches have tried to imitate heliotropic plants by repositioning the panels to follow the sun. Unfortunately, these systems require tracking mechanisms that are costly, complex and waste power. Other efforts have focused on special materials that directly respond to sunlight. Until now, such designs have tended to fatigue and quickly fail.
THE INVENTIONUW–Madison researchers have developed a passive solar tracking system utilizing materials that move in response to sunlight.

In the system, a solar cell panel is supported by flexible posts. The posts are made from a composite material, including a liquid crystal elastomer. This material has properties that cause it to contract and tilt when exposed to heat. To further exploit such properties, the material is embedded with carbon nanotubes that act as miniature heat sources, absorbing sunlight and giving off warmth.
  • Solar cell technology
  • Increases sunlight exposure
  • Enhances solar cell output
  • Doesn’t require power
  • Eliminates the need for complicated electromechanical parts
  • Works with many types of solar cells
For More Information About the Inventors
  • Li C., Liu Y., Huang X. and Jiang H. 2012. Direct Sun-Driven Artificial Heliotropism for Solar Energy Harvesting Based on Photo-Thermo-Mechanical Liquid Crystal Elastomer Nanocomposite. Adv. Funct. Mater. 22, 5166-5174.
Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Mark Staudt at or 608-960-9845.
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Since its founding in 1925 as the patenting and licensing organization for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, WARF has been working with business and industry to transform university research into products that benefit society. WARF intellectual property managers and licensing staff members are leaders in the field of university-based technology transfer. They are familiar with the intricacies of patenting, have worked with researchers in relevant disciplines, understand industries and markets, and have negotiated innovative licensing strategies to meet the individual needs of business clients.