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Fibonacci Solar Panels

## Fibonacci Solar Panels

The American Museum of Natural History recognizes students in grades 7-12 with their “Young Naturalist Awards” for research based science. Aiden is a 13 year old 7th grader from NY who won one of these awards for his research on optimizing solar panels by mimicking nature. Please read the entire article (linked below) to enjoy the amazing results he discovered. The excerpts posted here are just a tease.

The Secret of the Fibonacci Sequence in Trees – [amnh.org]

My investigation asked the question of whether there is a secret formula in tree design and whether the purpose of the spiral pattern is to collect sunlight better. After doing research, I put together test tools, experiments and design models to investigate how trees collect sunlight. At the end of my research project, I put the pieces of this natural puzzle together, and I discovered the answer. But the best part was that I discovered a new way to increase the efficiency of solar panels at collecting sunlight!

. . .

I learned that making power from the Sun is not easy. The photovoltaic (“PV”) array is the way to do it. A photovoltaic array is a linked collection of multiple solar cells. Making electricity requires as much sunlight as possible. At high noon on a cloudless day at the equator, the power of the Sun is about 1 kilowatt per square meter at the Earth’s surface (Komp). Sounds easy to catch some rays, right? But the Sun doesn’t stand still. It moves through the sky, and the angle of its rays in regions outside the equator change with the seasons. This makes collecting sunlight tricky for PV arrays. Some PV arrays use tracking systems to keep the panels pointing at the Sun, but these are expensive and need maintenance. So most PV arrays use fixed mounts that face south (or north if you are below the equator).

. . .

I began to see how nature beat this problem. Collecting sunlight is key to the survival of a tree. Leaves are the solar panels of trees, collecting sunlight for photosynthesis. Collecting the most sunlight is the difference between life and death. Trees in a forest are competing with other trees and plants for sunlight, and even each branch and leaf on a tree are competing with each other for sunlight. Evolution chose the Fibonacci pattern to help trees track the Sun moving in the sky and to collect the most sunlight even in the thickest forest.