Recently a 13-year-old boy may have just cracked the next step in the evolution of solar energy. His idea is based on the Fibonacci sequence.
It all started with trees…
After realizing that branches were frequently displayed in a spiral, and further, that spiral seemed to correspond to a pattern known as the Fibonacci sequence, then 13-year-old Aidan Dwyer began building test models to better understand the relationship.
What he found is something scientists have known for a long time – the Fibonacci sequence and it’s ratio, known as the golden ratio, are repeated throughout nature. In the case of trees, it helps maximize sunlight exposure.
He found distinct patterns in oak, elm, and willow trees, as well as almond trees, and decided to test his hypothesis that it maximized sunlight exposure by making mini tree models replete with solar panels on their branches. If he was right – and he was! – the spiral designs would allow the solar panels to draw more power. In particular, he found the spiral patterns can collect, on average, 20 percent more open current voltage by absorbing 2 1/2 more hours of sunlight each day.
Of particular importance were his winter findings – when the sun was at its lowest point in the sky, the Fibonacci-based design collected up to 50 percent more sunlight than traditional flat panels.
My results suggest that the Fibonacci pattern can improve solar panel arrays in several ways. It collects more sunlight when the sun is at a low angle in the sky. This is useful during winter months and in extreme latitudes.
He mentioned other benefits of the spiral design, saying that it will take up less room in urban areas, where space is limited. He also believes that the design would not collect as much rain and snow and be more weather-resistant than rooftop flat panel designs.
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