What do the Fibonacci Sequence and solar power have in common?

Solar energy is considered to many to be the answer to our energy problems but the main stumbling block to more wide spread use has always been the effective collecting of that energy.

Well it seems that one 13-year-old has discovered a rather unique method for collecting solar energy that allows for 50% more energy to be collected and lengthen the time energy can be collected while the sun is up by 50%.

Aidan Dwyer might only be a teenager but he is one smart kid who saw as other naturalists have that tree growth follows a unique mathematical tenet called the Fibonacci Sequence. For those not familiar with what that is here is a very simple explanation. It is a pattern where the previous numbers are added together to make the next number in the sequence i.e.: 1+1=2, 2+1=3, 3+2=5, 5+3=8, etc.

Aidan to thinking that if trees grew in this manner and were effective collecting solar energy for their growth why couldn’t we do the same. So he set about and created a “solar tree” using the sequence of leaves like that found on an oak tree, and photovoltaic cells instead of leaves.

From Aidan’s post on the American Museum of Natural History site:

I designed and built my own test model, copying the Fibonacci pattern of an oak tree. I studied my results with the compass tool and figured out the branch angles. The pattern was about 137 degrees and the Fibonacci sequence was 2/5. Then I built a model using this pattern from PVC tubing. In place of leaves, I used PV solar panels hooked up in series that produced up to 1/2 volt, so the peak output of the model was 5 volts. The entire design copied the pattern of an oak tree as closely as possible.


I compared my results on graphs, and they were interesting! The Fibonacci tree design performed better than the flat-panel model. The tree design made 20% more electricity and collected 2 1/2 more hours of sunlight during the day. But the most interesting results were in December, when the Sun was at its lowest point in the sky. The tree design made 50% more electricity, and the collection time of sunlight was up to 50% longer!

Even though scientists have been studying natures use of solar energy for quite some time there is no denying that the work of this “kid” is pretty impressive.

via Geekosystem