Friday, August 19, 2011

Mimicking Nature Win!

A 13 year old kid discovered something interesting about solar cells, by observing trees.  Both are ways to collect the sun's power.  He observed that the collectors on trees (the leaves) are distributed in many small pieces, and not all are pointed the same way.  Solar cell arrays, generally speaking, are single rectangular arrays pointed in one direction.  By splitting up the solar cells and aiming them in many different directions, he discovered that the average power output was higher than a single array pointed in one direction.  Cool!

He did leave out a few important details, though.  For starters, many conventional solar arrays are mounted on systems that keep them pointed toward the sun.  That technique produces more power than splitting the array up into pieces.  But I think the biggest piece he left out is that many trees (especially temperate and arctic trees) have mechanisms to aim their leaves toward the sun.  This mechanism isn't perfect, but it does greatly improve the efficiency of the collectors.

His idea is still cool, though...

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