Sunflowers are beautiful and happy flowers that come with an ability to orient themselves towards the sun to soak up the most light. They use a phenomenon called phototropism to squeeze the most energy out of the sun. Keeping this phenomenon in mind, engineers have now designed solar panels using nanotechnology that copy sunflower’s trait of catching sun, reports Science Alert.
The research has been carried out by scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, and Arizona State University. They have constructed tiny stems that bend towards a bright light source and can help improve the efficiency of different types of solar technologies. This new artificial phototropic system is based on “nanostructured stimuli-responsive polymers” that come packed with an ability to align themselves to the direction of light in three-dimensions over a wide range of temperature. This is possible because of a built-in feedback loop that’s integrated in the photothermal and mechanical properties of the material. Because, this system acts similar to a sunflower, they’re termed as “sunflower-like biomimetic omnidirectional tracker” or SunBOT.
“We show that an array of SunBOTs can, in principle, be used in solar vapour generation devices, as it achieves up to a 400% solar energy-harvesting enhancement over non-tropistic materials at oblique illumination angles. The principle behind our SunBOTs is universal and can be extended to many responsive materials and a broad range of stimuli,” states the researchers.
Researchers further stated that technologies like SunBOT can help in case of enhanced solar harvesters, adaptive signal receivers, smart windows, and self-regulating optical devices among others.