Sunday, April 18, 2010


Nature has been building microscopic cellular solar panels for almost 200 million years. So let's follow her lead, says marine biologist Mario De Stefano of the Second University of Naples in Italy. De Stefano and his collaborators [Antonia Auletta and Carla Langella] have been studying diatoms, microscopic algae, and they believe the organisms' cellular structure could inspire the design of solar panels. This illustration demonstrates the principles of biomimeticism, which involves looking "to natural organisms to see our future," De Stefano says.
(...) Each cell is a flat wedge with a glass-like wall shaped to maximize its surface area and absorb sunlight more efficiently for photosynthesis. Behind the sand grain, the team presents computer drawings of their bio-inspired solar panels, which would stand three meters tall with a span of 50 meters. De Stefano and his collaborators have started building these panels and believe that they could be used to create solar-powered street lamps.

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