13-Year-Old Designs Super-Efficient Solar Array Based on the Fibonacci Sequence | Popular Science [DEBUNKED]
13-Year-Old Designs Super-Efficient Solar Array Based on the Fibonacci Sequence | Popular Science.
[UPDATE] — As I originally stated, it might be a little silly to get too excited about the design of a 13 year old kid. It turns out we all got caught up in a feel good story that is not based in real science. The results were not accurate for a few reasons you can read here.
Plenty of us head into the woods to find inspiration. Aidan Dwyer, 13, went to the woods and had a eureka moment that could be a major breakthrough in solar panel design.
On a hiking trip, the 7th-grader noticed a pattern among tree branches, and determined the pattern represented the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. Aidan wondered why, and figured it had something to do with photosynthesis.
In an innovative experiment, this intrepid young scientist set about duplicating an oak tree, comparing its sunlight-capturing abilities to a traditional rooftop solar panel array. First he determined the ratios representing the spiral pattern of the leaves and branches on an oak tree. Then he copied the pattern using a computer program, and built an oak tree-shaped solar array out of PVC pipe. He next built a flat-panel array mounted at 45 degrees, like a typical home rooftop array, and attached data loggers to each model to monitor voltage.
The short story is that his tree design generated much more electricity — especially during the winter solstice, when the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. At that point, the tree design generated 50 percent more power, without any adjustments to its declination angle. He determined the tree’s Fibonacci pattern allowed some solar panels to collect sunlight even if others were in shade, and prevented branches on a tree from shading other branches.
ChrisB – It is probably a bit silly to trumpet the design of a kid, who is barely a teenager, as a major breakthrough in science. However, his discovery obviously has some real merit. His small scale model was 50% better at generating electricity when the solar conditions were at their worst. It is a reminder that inspiration is all around us in the natural world. Beyond that, it is a reminder that new ideas are coming to us from all types of people and we should pursue our ideas to the end. You can read the kid’s full essay on his design and experiment here.