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New 3D Printed Material Could Reduce the Cost of Solar Cells

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While the use of solar cells is a good way to harness the power of the Sun and cut back on our dependency, most people are put off by their high prices.

Much research has gone into making solar cells cheaper, however, the answer to this problem may come from a group of researchers from MIT and the Singapore University of Technology and Design who have created a revolutionary new technology.

The team has developed a 3D printed material that has the changes its shape when its cooled or heated, and resumes its initial form once certain conditions are met. This technology could potentially reduce the costs of solar cells, due to the fact that it could replace the light-sensitive turning system that rotates the cells in order to face the Sun.

The material is also extremely versatile, as it can be bent and stretched into any shape. The material will then keep this shape until its temperature is raised to between 104 and 356 degrees Fahrenheit when it will return to its original shape.

In order to create an object made of this material, the scientists have used a 3D printing method called microstereolithography. This enables them to use light in order to etch patterns onto polymers, creating a thin structure. The researchers have dubbed this method 4D printing, as the deformation of the material occurs in time(4th dimension).

The new technology has many potential uses, however, the most important would be in replacing the electrical motors that keep solar cells pointed at the Sun. This would essentially increase the efficiency of the cells, thus reducing the need to store large amounts of electricity. Hopefully, solar cell manufacturers will start using the material in the following years, in order to keep up with the electrical needs resulted from the increasing popularity of EVs.

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