Potential innovations in solar energy were the topic at the Faculty Noon Time Talk presented by Computer Engineering Program assistant professor Rakesh Mahto on Tuesday.
Mahto advocated for reconfigurable solar cells, which are less likely to be damaged compared to traditional solar panels and have more applications.
There would be 72 solar cells in each module, which he said could power satellites, homes, commercial buildings and drones.
Mahto said solar cells would be more ideal for satellites than full solar panels because if they were to break from stray space debris or electromagnetic radiation, they could reconfigure themselves.
“Even though solar panels are damaged, I can reconfigure the panel and make it operate until we can replace them,” Mahto said.
On cars, solar cells can be used to charge the battery without a plug-in station. Once the car is in park, the solar cells would begin to charge.
A student in the audience had some concerns about solar cells in terms of car battery efficiency and asked if there would be any fire hazards with the large amount of heat on the vehicle.
Mahto said that fire issues only occur when a cell breaks, which would create a hot spot.
For smaller objects like drones, Mahto explained that solar cells would be ideal because they are lightweight.
Mahto said that as of now, solar cells can last between 10 to 15 years, but their performance will deteriorate over time.
He said he plans to develop a smart grid so solar cells can communicate with each other and reconfigure. The solar cells would be able to detect whether they are in the shade and adjust the grid to grab as much energy as they can.
“It doesn’t need human intervention. It can automatically detect if there are issues,” Mahto said.
He also briefly discussed the possibility of using Wi-Fi to adjust the solar cells based on weather reports.
Mahto said he hopes his students in the computer engineering department will help design his solar cell models this semester.
Nick Huntington-Klein, assistant professor of economics, will speak on the effects of course requirements on student major choices at the next Pollak Library Faculty Noon Time Talk on Feb. 26.