A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology stacked a number of photovoltaic solar cells on top of one another to produce as much as twenty times the output of conventional installations of solar panels.
MIT built 3D stacks of the cells to combat the problem of needing so many to power just light bulbs. Their footprint is the same as just one flat solar panel but the surface area in much, much larger. A variety of the 3D stacks was made by the researchers including cubes. In all of the different designs, between two and twenty times more power was produced than that of a conventional setup.
One reason is that conventional setups have a hard time capturing low-angle light. However, the accordion style of solar panels allows for capturing of light at as low as 45 degrees. This is very important, as garnering as much power as possible out of the low light hours is a huge plus.
The biggest issue against solar power is its unreliability. If cloud cover is thick and for a long period than the amount of power that can be taken in and stored is very low. In addition, the most power is generated in the middle of the day when it is least needed.
Therefore, a big battery is needed to keep enough power in storage for night hours. However, if this pancake effect of panels can generate sufficient power for the morning, afternoon and evening hours, even during the winter, than this could be the breakthrough the solar power industry needs to give it a kick-start.