Sunflowers have evolved to efficiently harvest solar energy in order to grow. Their leaflets are arranged in a way that they avoid blocking light for each other.
Scientists from MIT and RWTH Aachen looked at the geometric arrangement in sunflowers during their research to reduce the land-use of concentrated solar power plants. In such a solar plant, an array of mirrors redirects the light to a central point where the rays are converted to electricity.
The researchers discovered that a design inspired by sunflowers can yield a 20% reduction in land-use without reducing energy efficiency. Land use is fundamental to the transition to an all-renewable energy system. Placing as many mirrors as possible on a given piece of land, without them blocking each other’s sunlight is a vital aspect of reducing our land use.