Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Origami-structured Flat-Plate Photovoltaic Cells with Autonomous Solar Tracking

Technology #6055

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Small cuts and origami-like folds can change orientation based on axial strain to maximize photon collection from incident solar rays.
Max Shtein
Managed By
Keith Hughes
Assistant Director, Physical Sciences & Engineering 734-764-9429
Patent Protection
US Patent Pending

Three-dimensional solar panel with autonomous solar-tracking

As global energy providers turn to renewable energy sources, there is a growing need for more efficient and cost-effective solar power technologies. Solar cell technologies represent an $18B market expected to grow in coming years. Unfortunately efficiency of energy generation is limited by the ability of solar panels to collect photons from solar rays. Flat panel systems, the current industry standard, vary throughout the day in photon collection efficiency, because the number of photons that are incident on the panel changes as the sun crosses the sky. Efforts to increase efficiency, including photonic troughs, reflectors and motorized solar tracking systems are complex and costly.

Origami-based solar cells increase efficiency

New technology increases the efficiency of the solar cell with a novel folded shape and simple solar tracking. By combining thin-film solar cells with origami-like folding, a novel solar cell is created that has increased solar efficiency due to incorporated autonomous solar tracking. The folds in the solar cell are able to change their angle in response to axial strain, maintaining the solar cells in a position perpendicular to the sun’s rays. Origami solar cells are up to 45% more efficient than traditional flat-plate photovoltaic panels.


  • Solar Power
  • Utility and residential energy production
  • Space ventures


  • Higher efficiency photon collection
  • Autonomous solar tracking