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Michigan Engineering via Youtube

These Solar Cells Were Inspired by the Japanese Art of Kirigami

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Michigan Engineering via Youtube

Traditional solar panels are limited in their ability to harness energy by their fixed positions. In order to better capture as much light as possible, researchers have developed a flexible solar cell inspired by the Japanese art of paper sculpting. 

Kirigami is a variation of origami that involves cutting paper in addition to folding it. A team of researchers led by Stephen Forrest and Max Shtein, both professors of material science at the University of Michigan, have drawn inspiration from the Japanese art by cutting solar cells into specific designs. The result allows the cells to follow the sun’s trajectory without moving the whole panel, harnessing 20 to 40 percent more energy than a fixed solar cell.

When cut just so, the gallium arsenide panel strips can bend without casting shadows over each other. With minimal force, they pull apart into a wavy configuration that's able to catch sunlight at different angles. 

Efficiency is a common challenge when it comes to solar power. This technology generates more electricity with the same amount of materials, all while avoiding the cumbersome mechanics required to tilt an entire panel.

There’s still work to be done before the solar cells are ready for commercial applications. Once factors like electric motors and protective casings are figured out, you might be able to see them contorting on a roof top near you. 

[h/t: MIT Technology Review]

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Courtesy Chronicle Books
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Design
Inside This Pop-Up Book Are a Planetarium, a Speaker, a Decoder Ring, and More
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Courtesy Chronicle Books

Designer Kelli Anderson's new book is for more than just reading. This Book Is a Planetarium is really a collection of paper gadgets. With each thick, card stock page you turn, another surprise pops out.

"This book concisely explains—and actively demonstrates with six functional pop-up paper contraptions—the science at play in our everyday world," the book's back cover explains. It turns out, there's a whole lot you can do with a few pieces of paper and a little bit of imagination.

A book is open to reveal a spiralgraph inside.
Courtesy Chronicle Books

There's the eponymous planetarium, a paper dome that you can use with your cell phone's flashlight to project constellations onto the ceiling. There's a conical speaker, which you can use to amplify a smaller music player. There's a spiralgraph you can use to make geometric designs. There's a basic cipher you can use to encode and decode secret messages, and on its reverse side, a calendar. There's a stringed musical instrument you can play on. All are miniature, functional machines that can expand your perceptions of what a simple piece of paper can become.

The cover of This Book Is a Planetarium
Courtesy Chronicle Books
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Noriyuki Saitoh
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Art
Japanese Artist Crafts Intricate Insects Using Bamboo
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Noriyuki Saitoh

Not everyone finds insects beautiful. Some people think of them as scary, disturbing, or downright disgusting. But when Japanese artist Noriyuki Saitoh looks at a discarded cicada shell or a feeding praying mantis, he sees inspiration for his next creation.

Saitoh’s sculptures, spotted over at Colossal, are crafted by hand from bamboo. He uses the natural material to make some incredibly lifelike pieces. In one example, three wasps perch on a piece of honeycomb. In another, two mating dragonflies create a heart shape with their abdomens.

The figures he creates aren’t meant to be exact replicas of real insects. Rather, Saitoh starts his process with a list of dimensions and allows room for creativity when fine-tuning the appearances. The sense of movement and level of detail he puts into each sculpture is what makes them look so convincing.

You can browse the artist’s work on his website or follow him on social media for more stunning samples from his portfolio.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

[h/t Colossal]

All images courtesy of Noriyuki Saitoh.

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