Solar panels inspired by Japanese paper cutting

You’re familiar with origami, but are you familiar with kirigami? The combination of Japanese art and solar panels is beautiful to view, and could soon revolutionise the way we use solar.

Written by Justine Summers

The introduction of solar has helped Aussies move towards a more renewable energy focused future, and remove our reliance on the grid. Solar is a forever evolving industry, with new technologies improving solar capabilities and our ability to harness the sun. 

When solar cells are able to track the sun across the sky, they capture up to 40% more energy than static panels. While there is technology that allows panels to track the sun, these devices are extremely heavy for everyday use, such as pitched roof tops. They are also expensive, making them an unattractive and unviable option for homes and businesses alike.

Kirigami Design

The clever team at the University of Michigan have combined art and science, creating a new type of solar panel utilising kirigami, a Japanese paper cutting technique. A laser is used to create small cuts in flat plastic sheets of solar cells. When the plastic sheets are stretched out, they twist to open and become three dimensional, tracking the direction of the sun. While the team trialled a variety of cuts for the technology, they found that the simplest cut which created a basic mesh was the most effective.

The results were amazing. Through this innovative design, these new kirigami-inspired solar panels are 36% more effective than static solar panels. Only 4% shy of the current trackers, which due to weight and cost, aren’t a realistic option for many solar users.


Though this is an exciting step forward for the solar industry, the project is not yet ready to be commercialised. The team at the University of Michigan are yet to determine if the thin, flexible solar sheets will be able to withstand the daily movements required to follow the sun over several years. To match the average lifespan of a solar panel, the team hope to create panels that are able to last 25 years. To last this time, the panels would need to withstand 250,000 movements over the panel lifespan. The team is also in the process of determining which device will be used to stretch the panels, though they have reassured it will certainly be lighter than traditional trackers.

We’re excited about this new technology, and will be keeping an eye on this space! This exciting advancement in solar technology could make a huge difference in the use of solar power and consumption of energy in the future. Check out a clip of the panel in action here.

About the author

Justine works in our Origin Business Solar department, and has a background in Marketing and PR. Justine is an fan of sustainable, minimalist lifestyles & is a self-proclaimed vegetarian recipe master – trying her hardest to convince the masses that meat free meals are still delicious.


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