Sunflowers and Solar Energy

The beauty and science of Nature. Photo by Louise Docker

Why haven’t sunflowers been the efficiency model for solar research all along?  If you have ever noticed — really noticed and watched  — sunflowers, you know that their name, “sunflower” is not because they look like our solar orb, but because their growth is  largely driven by what they can gather in from the received radiation.  Sunflowers require very little water, can grow almost anywhere, prolifically reseed themselves for the next sunshine season, but the flowers!  The flowers turn and follow the sun as they absorb energy from sun up to sun down!  Don’t miss an opportunity to watch a large field or mass of sunflowers if you haven’t done so already; see how they are gathered together, watch as they worshipfully bow, lift and bow again as the lightgiver travels across the sky.  How can one not smile?

The beauty and efficiency of nature is an amazing thing and I have only surprise at the length of time that it took for the MIT researchers and their German collaborators at  RWTH Aachen University to realize the significance of the design.  At this point in solar power plant design, they require large spaces  (footprint) for all the collection mirrors.  The mirrors all  face  and reflect the received solar radiation onto a tower which then converts that radiation into thermal energy.  These researchers, as detailed in this article in Science Daily, have reduced the footprint by 20 percent while increasing the potential energy generation.  The pattern inspired by the sunflower not only allows for a more compact layout of the mirrors (heliostats), but it minimizes the shading and blocking effect of neighboring mirrors.

Now, it seems to me, the challenge should be to perhaps use that same sunflower pattern in solar panels used for localized, home or other structures.  Converting solar energy to thermal energy to electricity could probably be much more efficient if it bypassed the thermal step.  Is there anyone out there doing this?

H/T Scinerds

Solar energy: New sunflower-inspired pattern increases concentrated solar efficiency.

Advertisements

One response to “Sunflowers and Solar Energy

  1. These days, more involved businesses and individuals are becoming element of the journey to look for renewable alternative power sources. The sunshine is just one these resource and by the conclude of the twentieth century, photo voltaic panels have developed into a great deal more visible and recognition of their many benefits to many people and ecosystem greater. Also, on the internet solar energy training are mushrooming as the clamour for further solar PVs gets even louder each individual 12 months. A bit more customers are beginning to see the options offered by the photo voltaic vitality, and there is far more than a single ideal explanation why they needs to engage it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s