Far from being an innovative technology, solar power has been a part of a strategy to switch from fossil fuels to green energy for decades. President Jimmy Carter installed a solar energy system on the roof of the White House in 1979 in response to the gas crises caused by America’s dependence on foreign oil. Since that time, solar energy has been fine-tuned and made more affordable and more efficient. But the one thing that has remained constant from the beginning is the basic design of the solar panel itself. That is changing, however.
In today’s edition of Italy24, an article calling attention an innovative technology for harvesting solar power at the German Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 is showcased. Instead of rectangular solar panels, photovoltaic “leaves” are being used to capture the energy of the sun in a way that is much more efficient than the old-style panels. They’re also more aesthetically pleasing, and they can deliver much more power than the traditional flat designs.
As we all learned in high school botany class, plants grow through a process called photosynthesis. The sun hits the surface of a leaf, and the plant converts the sun’s light into energy that enables the plant to grow. Scientists recently put two and two together and asked themselves, “If simple leaves can do this, why can’t we?”
By designing a solar panel that mimics the folds and creases of a leaf, solar energy harvesting can be increased substantially, especially in the near-infrared region of the light spectrum where light absorption is more difficult to achieve. And the increase is not negligible, either. More than a 600% increase has been realized by scientists.