Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

Clean Technology
Clean Technology
Solar Cells Track Sun
WARF: P120269US01

Inventors: 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.
Maximizing 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 Invention
UW–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
Key Benefits
  • 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
Additional Information
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.
For current licensing status, please contact Michael Carey at [javascript protected email address] or 608-960-9867