Solar Panels Inspired by Leaves
Image source: SMIT
It is really Biomimicry at its best!
Samuel Cabot Cochran, as part of his final year thesis, and SMIT or Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology, has developed an awesome Green energy generation device. Obviously inspired by leaves, and aptly named Grow, the product can generate power from sunlight (photovoltaics) and the wind (flexible piezo generator).
Also it’s not a concept, as they have figured it out how to make it:
Each brick has 5 solar leaves which have a very flexible piezo generator at their stem. The manufacturing of these bricks could happen in a roll to roll printing process where PV, conductive ink, and piezo generators can be layered quickly and efficiently. The rolls can then be stamped and formed to create leaves and connection points. Each brick is designed so that at the end of their life cycle the valuable components, i.e. photovoltaic and piezo, can be stamped out and up cycled while the reusable material, i.e plastic, can be up recycled back into the production stream.
This leaf like design also fixes the problems we have with traditional solar cell slabs. It is just not as efficient, and the reason why you don’t see trees in nature that have only one big leaf. Now if we could somehow turn the entire shape into that of a real tree…anyway in it’s current incarnation, it is a happy blend of practicality and inspiration from nature.
The other great thing about this design is that it is modular in nature (no pun intended). This means you can create a “wall” of generators as big or as small or in any shape you want! How clever is that? We have finally moved from “Green is Boring” to “Green is Damn Cool!”.