They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I suppose that is true when you consider the kinds of machinations that we humans have thought up of all these years, looking to nature for inspiration. The latest inspiration? Solar panels that are touted to be more efficient after an attempt to copy how sunflowers work. Basically, any field of young sunflowers are able to rotate slowly to follow the course of the sun throughout the day, so that each leaf will be able to perform as much photosynthesis as possible – this particular adaptation is known as heliotropism.
A UW-Madison electrical and computer engineer managed to stumble upon a method that paves the way to mimic passive heliotropism which can be found in sunflowers, adopting this particular “feature” so to speak in the future generation of solar power systems. Professor Hongrui Jiang’s concept will leverage on the properties of unique materials that work in tandem with one another, resulting in a passive way of re-orienting solar panels that follows in the path where the most direct sunlight falls on. To put it in a nutshell, wherever the sun goes, it follows – and it might just bump up the efficiency of solar panels in the future by a notch or two.