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Power Education Math Patents Hardware Science

13-Year-Old Uses Fibonacci Sequence For Solar Power Breakthrough 410

An anonymous reader tips news of 7th grader Aidan Dwyer, who used phyllotaxis — the way leaves are arranged on plant stems in nature — as inspiration to arrange an array of solar panels in a way that generates 20-50% more energy than a uniform, flat panel array. Aidan wrote, "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. ... 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!"His work earned him a Young Naturalist Award from the American Museum of Natural History and a provisional patent on the design.
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13-Year-Old Uses Fibonacci Sequence For Solar Power Breakthrough

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  • by sangdrax ( 132295 ) on Friday August 19, 2011 @09:02AM (#37141078)

    What seems to count for this award is a scientific investigation driven by a well-posed question. He did just that -- he tested a hypothesis by making a setup, doing repeated measurements, and drawing conclusions. Awards such as these want to encourage exactly what this boy has done. That he made a basic mistake in his setup is probably simply not all that relevant.

  • by Announcer ( 816755 ) on Friday August 19, 2011 @09:05AM (#37141102) Homepage

    The site is already Slashdotted. Here is the CORAL link: []

    His idea is based upon something that has existed since ... forever. It took a bright 13 year old to see it.

  • by St.Creed ( 853824 ) on Friday August 19, 2011 @09:06AM (#37141130)

    Quote from the article: "The second model was a flat-panel array that was mounted at 45 degrees. It had the same type and number of PV solar panels as the tree design, and the same peak voltage."

  • Re:Makes sense... (Score:5, Informative)

    by agentgonzo ( 1026204 ) on Friday August 19, 2011 @09:08AM (#37141150)
    Unfortunately, I don't think he was the first to think of it either. Can anyone say prior art? []
  • by umghhh ( 965931 ) on Friday August 19, 2011 @09:22AM (#37141360)
    When I read your post and looked at the picture I thought you were right and the young boy was not a smart nerd but a smart manager, politician or lawyer to be. Yet then I went to TFA and looked at the graphs and what he wrote. What the graphs show is voltage and what what he is also talking about is the time at which the energy is produced being 50% longer in case of his model. Now this may or may not be true of course but his observation is about as much about voltage he could get from the device as about exposure time. It may bet hat it makes no difference but I find it interesting that he has reasonably well understood why oak trees waste time on leaves in some funny patterns. On top of it all this is 7yo boy - I know grown ups that would protest that burning stuff heats up atmosphere and they come in droves without even a smallest need to ask a question why fire causes heat etc. He has this need which for me makes him a reason to have hope for the future. It is a small hope but still I have now something more than I had over last few weeks worth of news (morons, greed, morons, greed, killers, morons,. greed, government morons, greed, killer, morons, greed and so on and so forth) here is a change. I am positively impressed and before that is gone or some asshole from above hovers to me to tell me how to do things even better, faster (so that I have the time to do them twice) I go to mycellar to fetch a bottle of my beloved beverage (that would be hoegaarden - excellent stuff from Belgium by the way) - I drink to this young man's curiosity about mama nature. Maybe even if he becomes a soldier he will think before killing an older guy drawing circles in the sand....

!07/11 PDP a ni deppart m'I !pleH