By David Worthington, smartplanet.com:
The sunflower may be the brightest muse for human invention. It inspired Van Gogh to paint an impressionist masterpiece, and is now guiding a scientist toward making possible more energy efficient solar power systems.
University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Hongrui Jiang took notice of how sunflowers follow the sun’s movement through the day, and created a design that emulates how their leaves move to maximize light exposure through an adaptation called heliotropism.
Many high tech solar systems use GPS satellites to track the position of the sun. Jiang’s design instead mimics a sunflower’s natural engineering with a passive method to re-orienting solar panels in the direction of the sun… Read more