Oak Tree Inspires Teen To Design Super-Efficient Solar Panel


Desperate to make solar power affordable and accessible to all, engineers and designers are working tirelessly to create a more efficient solar panel.

They might be more successful if they did their thinking in the woods instead of in a lab, however.

Inspired by the spiral leaf pattern he observed in the branches of an oak tree in the Catskill Mountains, 13-year-old Aiden Dwyer recently designed an award-winning solar panel arrangement that is up to 50 percent more efficient than traditional roof-top arrangements in use today.

In an essay titled “The Secret of the Fibonacci Sequence in Trees,” Dwyer writes that he started his investigation by trying to understand the spiral pattern he noticed among the leaves.

“I built a test tool to measure the spiral pattern of different species of trees. I took a clear plastic tube and attached two circle protractors that could be rotated up and down the tube. When I put a test branch in the tube, I aligned the zero degree mark on one compass to match up with the first offshoot branch. I then moved and rotated the second compass up to the next branch spot. The second compass measured the angle between the two spots. I recorded the measurement and then moved up the branch step-by-step.”

To test his hypothesis that the Fibonacci Sequence helped the tree’s leaves gather sunlight more efficiently, Dwyer built his own model using PVC and compared it to a traditional flat panel array.

He was surprised by the results:

“The Fibonacci tree design performed better than the flat-panel model. The tree design made 20 percent 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 percent more electricity, and the collection time of sunlight was up to 50 percent longer!”

The design won Dwyer the 2011 Young Naturalist Award from the American Museum of Natural History, and he has already applied for a patent.

Related Reading:

Solar Power Funding Avalanche

Build Your Own Solar-Powered Vehicle For Less Than $600

Lowe’s Partnership Will Rent Solar Panels To The Masses

via PopSci


Image Credit: AMNH

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Sarah M.
Sarah M.4 years ago

This is awesome. Way to go kid!

Glen P.
Glen P.4 years ago

Wow. What a wonderful boy. Good for him!

Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak4 years ago

I sure hope that this young genius get full financial credit for this discovery.

Brianna K.
Past Member 4 years ago

Oh, now I understand.

James F.
James F.4 years ago

At 13 I was more into chemistry than electronics... but I certainly understood the difference between voltage and current.

Brianna K.
Past Member 4 years ago

For those who seem so critical of this young man. What were you doing at 13?

James F.
James F.4 years ago

@ iii q.
"What is his IQ?"
Considering his own paper explained why shaded cells are bad for power output and he then goes on to design an array that does precisely that... maybe not that high.

Janet Ives
Janet Ives4 years ago

Well done to Aiden Dwyer, many adults could take a leaf out of his book.

Megan Camarena
Megan Camarena4 years ago

What an amazing young man.I have a feeling he has a very bright future ahead of him.

Megan Camarena
Megan Camarena4 years ago

What an amazing young man. I have a feeling he has a bright future in front of him.