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Energy

354: SunBOTs

Problem:

Moveable PV panels require electricity to orient them.

Solution:

Biomimicry. The stem of the natural sunflower (Helianthus annuus) moves throughout the day so that its flowery head always squarely faces the sun, wherever it is in the sky. This is known as phototropism.
Ximin He and a team at the UCLA have developed artificial flowers known as SunBots. Less than one millimeter in diameter, the fake sunflowers use materials that expand and contract with heat to bend towards sunlight.

When part of a SunBOT’s stem is exposed to light, it heats up and shrinks. This causes the stem to bend and point the artificial flower towards the light. The stem stops bending once SunBOT is aligned with the light because the bending creates a shadow that allows the material to cool down and stop shrinking. A “field” of SunBots, constructed using almost any reversibly photo-responsive soft materials, could increase the efficiency of solar power.

Discover Solution 355: Sustainable aviation fuel

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