Reaching far beyond the cutesy paper sculptures of grade school, the age-old art of origami has underpinned some cutting-edge breakthroughs in design and engineering. From space dwellings to watercraft, origami techniques have been called upon to create hardware that packs up tiny and performs on demand. Now, Utah startup Sego Innovations is utilizing origami to create the most packable solar charger around.
Sego Innovations, founded by a trio of Brigham Young University (BYU) grads with experience working on a NASA compliant mechanism solar panel project, is determined to bring the space-saving design down to Earth in the form of an easy-carry portable charger for travel, adventure, emergency backup, and off-grid living.
The Sego panel is designed to fold down to an eighth of its size within about a second. It can easily fit in a backpack or suitcase, allowing users to carry renewable off-grid power anywhere. The panels are made from SunPower monocrystalline solar cells and are precisely cut into triangular halves and quarters, then reconnected with a printed circuit board (PCB). When expanded, the panel offers 2.56 square feet (0.24 sq m) of surface area.
To ensure durability and weather resistance, Sego protects the solar cells with an ETFE coating and a high-pressure fiberglass laminate substrate. The folding and setup process is seamless, thanks to a series of joints, hinges, and magnets. The panel works with a kickstand that stashes inside the folded panel for transport.
The Sego panel features a charger module with a USB-C port for direct device charging or connection to a portable power pack. It also has a separate port for chaining multiple solar panels together. Charging times range from one to two hours for a smartphone, three to four hours for a tablet, and 3.5 to 7 hours for a 10,000-mAh portable power pack, assuming optimal sun conditions.
The folded Sego panel is compact enough to easily stow in a backpack or vehicle. It weighs approximately 3 lb (1.4 kg), making it suitable for most travelers. Sego Innovations is offering a premium model with a carbon fiber substrate, which is stiffer and lighter, weighing an estimated 2.5 lb (1.1 kg).
Currently, Sego is running a successful Kickstarter campaign, where the 25-W Sego Charger is available at an early bird pledge level of $289, discounted from the planned $395 MSRP. The campaign has received overwhelming support, with pledges exceeding $180,000.
With its innovative origami design and portable functionality, the Sego folding solar panel opens up new possibilities for convenient access to renewable energy while on the go.