Who decided solar panels should be flat?
A seventh-grader from New York has worked out that solar panels arranged more like tree branches may capture more light than flat panels.
For real, kind of. Aidan Dwyer, 13, noticed that tree branch patterns are Fibonacci numbers, postulated that it had to do with photosynthesis, took some pretty involved measurements of an oak tree, built a PVC-pipe solar array in the same shape, built a flat solar panel, compared how much light each captured over time, and voila, he had an award-winning science experiment and a great-sounding theory: trees evolved with these patterns for good reason. He found that tree-shaped pattern is as much as 50 percent more efficient than the flat panel, depending on the time of year.
The seventh-grader's explanation was that the Fibonacci pattern keeps branches out of each others' shadows in full light and at the same time allows the tree to garner as much light as possible when some branches are in shadow and others in light.… Read more