Harnessing the elegance of ancient origami techniques, Utah-based Sego Innovations has unveiled a groundbreaking solar charger that revolutionizes off-grid power. This novel invention condenses to an eighth of its expanded size within a second, making it an incredibly compact and convenient power source for travel, emergency backup, and off-grid living.
The concept of implementing origami principles in design and engineering is not new. For years, various fields, including NASA, have leveraged the origami technique for a range of projects including deployable robots, massive telescope star shades, and the design of rocket-mounted solar panels. These panels, designed in 2013 in collaboration with researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU), compact down for launch and expand up to 10 times their original size once in space.
Sego Innovations was founded by three BYU graduates who were part of the NASA compliant mechanism solar panel project. They aimed to replicate the space-saving design to create an easy-to-carry, portable charger. The launch model of the Sego solar panel features an array of SunPower monocrystalline solar cells, providing 25 watts of charging under optimal sunlight conditions. The panels are divided into triangular halves and quarters and reassembled using printed circuit board (PCB).
When packed, the Sego panel is a compact 7.5-inch square with a thickness just over an inch, transforming into a thin, hexagonal panel with a simple two-handed pull. The expanded panel offers 2.56 square feet of surface area.
To ensure durability for travel and outdoor use, the solar cells are shielded by an ETFE coating, giving it IP67 weather-resistant performance. Additionally, a high-pressure fiberglass laminate substrate offers further protection. The panel’s seamless folding and setup are facilitated by an array of joints, hinges, and magnets.
The Sego panel comes with an inbuilt kickstand that stows inside the folded panel for easy transportation. A charging module with a USB-C port is present on the back of the panel, enabling direct connection to devices needing a charge or a portable power pack for storage. A separate port facilitates the chaining of multiple solar panels. According to Sego, under ideal sun conditions, charging time for a smartphone is one to two hours, three to four hours for a tablet, and 3.5 to 7 hours for a 10,000-mAh portable power pack.
Although too large for a shirt pocket, the Sego panel easily fits into a backpack, duffel bag, cargo box, or vehicle. Weighing an estimated 3 lb, it might be considered heavy for an ultralight backpacker but is still manageable for those less concerned about weight.
Currently, Sego has developed a prototype, and while they are finalizing the production version, retail specifications may vary. Early bird Kickstarter backers can acquire the 25-W Sego Charger for $289, offering a significant saving on the planned $395 retail price. The campaign has already proven popular, raising over 20 times its goal with over $215,000 in pledges.
Additionally, Sego Innovations is offering a premium model featuring a carbon fiber substrate in place of fiberglass. This version, weighing an estimated 2.5 lb, is both stiffer and lighter. Pledge levels for this premium model start at $475.
In conclusion, the Sego solar panel, inspired by the art of origami and space technology, offers a convenient and durable off-grid power solution. Its compact design and efficient solar charging capabilities make it a promising choice for adventurers and off-grid enthusiasts.
Source: Sego Innovations