Sunflowers inspire efficient solar systems

A US researcher has created a way to mimic the motion of sunflowers in order to maximise the output of solar power systems. Hongrui Jiang, the electrical and computer engineer […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

A US researcher has created a way to mimic the motion of sunflowers in order to maximise the output of solar power systems.

Hongrui Jiang, the electrical and computer engineer Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison uses the form of heliotropism, which is the growth or movement of flowers and plants towards the light of the sun.

His concept involves using a liquid crystalline elastomer (LCE), or a sort of cross-linked rubbery chain which contracts in the presence of heat, along with carbon nanotubes, which can absorb a wide range of light wavelengths.

Mr Jiang said: “Carbon nanotubes have a very wide range of absorption, visible light all the way to infrared. That is something we can take advantage of since it is possible to use sunlight to drive it directly. The idea is that wherever the sun goes it will follow.”

He claims the solar tracking system improved the efficiency of solar panels by 10% in tests and hopes to see the technology used in huge industrial solar farms in the future.