The Loh Down On Science

Solar Spirals

Here comes the sun! Which is why you need sunflowers?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

And on a better way to harvest solar energy.

On the head of a sunflower, bright yellow florets spiral outward in a mathematical pattern called a Fibonacci spiral. It's a design that shows up everywhere in nature, from tiny shells to sprawling galaxies.

Now, engineers from MIT say that design can teach us about renewable energy, too.

The scientists have been studying the designs of concentrated solar plants. These futuristic power factories usually look like great fields of mirrors, arranged in circles. These bounce sunlight to a central pillar, where the intensified light is converted to electricity.

But. These giant techno-temples need a lot of sunny space to make the tiniest dent in our voracious energy hunger. Which is why they need to be super-efficient.

Enter ... the sunflower. After testing different patterns, the MIT scientists reported that if the mirrors are arranged in a sunflowery spiral, instead of concentric circles, the solar plant can produce more energy in less space.

Call it Fibonacci Flower Power!



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