Biomimetic file 129: Sunflower-inspired pattern increases concentrated solar efficiency

Sunflower-inspired pattern increases concentrated solar efficiency

 

Highlight: “researchers at MIT, in collaboration with RWTH Aachen University in Germany, have come up with a design that reduces the amount of land required to build a CSP (concentrated Solar) plant, while increasing the amount of sunlight its mirrors collect. The researchers found that by rearranging the mirrors, or heliostats, in a pattern similar to the spirals on the face of a sunflower, they could reduce the pattern’s “footprint” by 20 percent and increase its potential energy generation.”

Insight: Shapes in nature can often offer interesting patterns which seemingly appear random. However, a closer study lead to the conclusion that shapes design are often driven by the need to be efficient. The efficiency can be in terms of energy (the energy required by the species to do a specific task such as harvesting the suns energy for photosynthesis, collecting raindrops, sustaining flight…). It therefore makes a lot of sense to gain inspiration from shapes found within species for specific engineering tasks as the energy output gained from the design is often optimum. Some companies spend millions studying aspects such as air flows or sun exposures in laboratories using wind tunnels and other expensive infrastructures when in fact much of this could be saved going back to the basics of finding initial inspiration from nature..

More information at: http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2012/sunflower-concentrated-solar-0111

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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