Posts Tagged ‘William Yuan’

1 December

Using the Math and Magic of Origami to Increase Solar Efficiency


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I just spent a full day at WordCamp 2012 at Orlando, FL, learning how much more I can improve this site.  Wow, I certainly have much to  do….thanks to all of those WordPress volunteers responsible for organizing this event!  Well done! Much appreciated!


Today’s post is an embellishment of May 7, 2012 post on Solar Future From The Eye of  a Twelve-Year-Old, Solar Cells in 3D .  Life is simply delicious when the confluence of my three hobbies, origami-math-solar, would play a part in our energy future by boosting the efficiency level of solar panel.  For those of you who have been following this site ( for almost two years, hopefully you have come to realize the three difficult triad historically associated with being the barrier to prevalent implementation of solar energy is: cost, efficiency, and battery storage.  Our previous post in Nov. 27, 2012, reported on dramatic decline in cost of solar energy. I will present to you, in today’s post, an interesting way to increase solar efficiency, followed by next post’s piece on battery storage.

Below is a wonderful presentation by Robert Lang, “The Math and Magic of Origami”, selected from TED talks, demonstrating the use of origami concept in increasing solar efficiency.

Regardless be it from researchers in MIT, Virginia Tech, or the teen William Yuan, they have all utilized the origami concept to dramatically boost the efficiency or power produced by solar panels (ranging from doubling to 20 times or more  than the traditional fixed flat panels, claimed by some researchers/experimenters).  The origami-like 3D solar structure is much more efficient than the flat panels, absorbing more light and generating more power than a flat panel containing the same area footprint.  The idea is that all unused light which has been reflected off one panel would be captured by other panels.  Panels of this type is most ideal in situation with limited space. “This was a fully ‘bio-inspired‘ idea. I was hiking up at Lake Tahoe in California and noticing the shapes of trees, and wondering, ‘Why do they have a given shape over another?'” said researcher Jeffrey Grossman, a theoretical physicist at MIT.  In the past researchers in photovoltaic panels have kept these panels mostly flat to prevent any shadow effect because shadowing would diminish the amount of light panels harvest.  Furthermore, 2D panels are easier to install on rooftops and better suited for large-scale fabrication techniques.  Scientists now use a genetic algorithm in a computer simulation to determine the optimal 3D shape for harvesting the largest amount of light for solar panels. This algorithm creates random combinations of flat, triangular, double-sided panels and analyze them in response to the sun’s movement across the sky. The best ones are selected to be mated to create “offspring”;this process is then repeated for millions of generations to see what might evolve.

A huge advantage of 3D solar panels is that they require no moving parts and generate an even flow of power throughout the day.  In order to achieve this with flat panels, they must be arranged on a tracking system that moves with the sun, “which is a big bummer, since you really don’t want any moving parts sitting on your rooftop,” Grossman said. Anything that moves can break easily and requires more maintenance.  It is exciting that this simple idea will ultimately help to reduce the cost of solar power. We wish much success with these researchers and experimentalists in coming up with the optimal, computer generated, 3D designs.

~have a bright and sunny day~

gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker
Any of your questions, comments, suggestions will be welcomed at


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7 May

Solar Future From The Eyes Of A Twelve-Year-Old, Solar Cells In 3D


Dear Readers,

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If you are in favor of renewable,  clean, or solar energy, please sign this petition for FIT/CLEAN Program, accessible at Thank you very much.


Dear Solar Enthusiasts,

I’ve been hearing various reports about 3D solar cells and question as to whether a 12-year old is truly responsible for its discovery.  After much digging, this is what I’ve come to conclude and ready to share with all of you:

Back in 2008, according to one of the reports of by a reporter named Susan Harding, a 12-year-old student of Meadow Park Middle School of Beaverton, Oregon, William Yuan,

William Yuan, 12 Year Old Optimal 3D Solar Cell Designer/Creator/Genius

had invented something that could revolutionize solar energy.  It all started with Legos.  William Yuan, despite his tender age, had already studied nuclear fusion and nanotechnology by the time he reached seventh grade.  After he learned nanotechnology to make robots take off, this seventh grader got an idea inspired by the sun.   Encouraged by his Meadow Park Middle School science teacher, William Yuan started his quest in search of a different/new kind of solar cell.  For two years, he researched other scientists’ work and came up with his own unique design that would work for visible and UV light.  Noted: he based his research on some ground-breaking, graduate level work on 3D solar cells done at Georgia Tech and Notre Dame. He also received help from professional mentors at Portland State University’s Center for Nanofabrication and Electron Microscopy, Applied Materials Inc., and the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley.  He fully documented all of his sources and never implied that he invented 3D solar cell. Various graduate level research had focused on one or another design criteria, but William Yuan combined several ideas and made them more efficient and powerful.  “Regular solar cells are only 2D and only allow light interaction once,” he said.  If he is correct with all calculations, his particular 3D solar cell design would provide 500 times more light absorption than commercially available solar cells and nine times more than cutting-edge 3D solar cells.  His next step is to get a manufacturer and market it.  In the meantime, William Yuan had received a $25,000 scholarship from the Davidson Fellows Award (scholarships for extraordinary young people, 18 and under) for his research.  Let’s take a look at this 12 year old optimal 3D solar cell designer/creator, William Yuan, below:

Below, is a quote from the Davidson Institute For Talent Development, describing William Yuan’s 3D solar cell design:

“In his project, ‘A Highly-Efficient 3-Dimensional Nanotube Solar Cell for Visible and UV Light,’ William invented a novel solar panel that enables light absorption from visible to ultraviolet light. He designed carbon nanotubes to overcome the barriers of electron movement, doubling the light-electricity conversion efficiency. William also developed a model for solar towers and a computer program to simulate and optimize the tower parameters. His optimized design provides 500 times more light absorption than commercially-available solar cells and nine times more than the cutting-edge, three dimensional solar cell.”

I have only three comments:

1.  Moms and Dads out there, get your kids start playing with Legos as early as possible!

2.  Big Thumb Up to all inspiring teachers and mentors out there !

3.  For those of you who  think depopulation as the solution to our earthly problems, think again!

~have a bright and sunny day~

Gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker

Any comments and suggestions are welcomed at

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