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Learning from Nature: Harnessing Solar Energy through Bio-mimicry

The statement “nature has all the answers” cannot be truer. Other than just looking at the myriad things that nature provides, the amount of learning that we can get by observing the immense diversity in nature is unmatched as compared to any other sources of inspiration. Nature can in turn be considered as a reservoir for creative inspiration, as the epitome of creativity, growth and sustainability is nature itself. Hence, if we need to understand how to harness the power of the sun, we need not look much farther than nature for the answers.

One of the biggest sources of inspiration, when it comes to designing solar panels and utilizing bio-mimicry to understand the inherent way in which their functions can be made more efficient, we need to turn to examples in nature where harnessing of solar energy has been perfected in the form of a life system. If we take the aspect of photosynthesis into consideration, we can understand that the mechanism which occurs in leaves is quite similar to the one which has been implemented in solar panels.

The structure of a solar panel is designed a lot like the leaves of a plant. In plants, there is chlorophyll, the molecule that absorbs the sunlight. In the same way, engineers have designed crystals in which the electrons absorb enough energy to get excited and vibrate at a higher frequency, owing to the increased amount of energy that they gain from the photons.

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To an extent, the process of photosynthesis and photovoltaic solar cells is similar too. The aspect of energy can be understood in the terms of photons and electrons, the constituent particles of light and electricity as a whole. The sunlight that hits the leaves of a plant and solar panels contain photons in them, which are highly charged particles with a lot of energy contained within them.

Both plants and solar panels can absorb these photons only if the amount of energy/sunlight falling on them is right. When the photons are absorbed by the atoms of the plant or the solar panel, the electrons in them are immediately charged to a higher energy level. In this situation, plants move those electrons to one molecule to another, till they settle in a molecule where they are either stored in the form of chemicals which are used for higher functions in the plant. Similarly, in solar panels, the excited electrons are hurried off into a circuit and either used to power a device or stored within a battery for future use. Plants use the collected energy to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and also to produce sugar and nutrition for the body. While, in solar panels, the photons of sunlight are converted into electrons of direct current, thus producing electricity.

Tripped Out Fact: Scientists have now started creating solar panels which heavily resemble the inner structure of leaves, complete with the myriad veins as well as the thin cross-section of the same. These solar panels are said to be much more durable as well as versatile as compared to modern-day silicon solar panels.

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Plants are just one particular source of inspiration for designing the structure as well as increase the efficiency of the function of solar panels and other devices which are instrumental in harnessing the power of the sun. We can look to other sources for inspiration, such as the human body for instance. Humans and other animals can be termed as living, breathing solar panels ourselves. But, there are certain parts of our body which can be studied in detail in order to come up with better sources of inspiration for advanced technologies in the realm of harnessing and storing solar energy.

Tripped Out Fact: An individual named Neville Mars has actually conceived the idea of a solar forest cum parking lot, which consists of elegant tree-shaped poles consisting of panels in the place of leaves. These poles have power outlets at their bases, which serve as charging points for electrical vehicles. The leaves of these elegant “solar trees” act very similar to normal leaves on plants as they actually rotate along with the sun during the day.

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If we take the example of a practice known as sun-gazing, we see that people who directly gaze at the sun during specific periods of the day consistently for prolonged periods of time have noticed a considerable reduction in terms of hunger. They have even said that they have perceived themselves as having higher energy levels and have overcome aspects such as fatigue and lethargy. In a way, this means that our eyes allow us to harness the power of pure sunlight from the sun and use it directly, in the way that plants do. even though this may seem like some speculation arising through occult and mystic practices, the structure and function of the eyeball, including the lens within it as well as the other structural components which make it up, can be studied in order to understand how light is harnessed through it. This could open up many more doors for innovation in the field of solar energy as a whole.

To check out an article on sun-gazing, click here.

In the end, we have to understand that the possibilities for growth and innovation in the field of energy, especialy natural sources such as the sun, as almost limitless. In a way, the more we start to understand about ourselves as well as the elements of nature around us, the more progress we can make in terms of innovation and technology through bio-mimicry and other forms of utilizing the immense potential that nature has gathered through years and years of evolution. Moreover, we can be seen as some of the most innovative creations of nature, owing to which scientists and designers can seek true inspiration for their innovations by seeking for answers within the realm of the human mind and body.

Image sources: [1], [2], [3]

Further Tripping…

To know more about the idea of the solar forest, click here.

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