REAPER Lab’s SmartPVSkin™ project, funded by National Priorities Research Program Grant #7-299-2-124 from the Qatar National Research Fund, addresses the scientific challenges of efficient harvesting of electrical energy from flexible solar photovoltaic (PV) material by exploring a “smart PV skin”—flexible PV material laminated along with shape memory alloy actuated switches (SMAAS) to facilitate electrical reconfiguration. Flexible PV cells, and their energy conversion power electronics circuitry and controls, are a transformative emerging technology that will remove the application limitations of today’s flat, rigid PV modules. To realize their full energy harvest potential a holistically conceived and innovative approach is needed. Our work focuses on the cell morphology and energy conversion challenges needed to design a shape-conformal, efficient photovoltaic energy system. Modeling, simulation, and system optimization from this project advances the body of knowledge by providing both power electronics and material science researchers the ability to concurrently optimize the size and shape of PV cells and the electrical interconnection and conversion circuitry. We do this by discovering ways in which individually fabricated cells can be electrically grouped into pixels in order to maximize power generation in planar and non-planar systems.
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