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13-Year-Old Boy Wonder Figures Out How to Increase Solar Panel Efficiency by 50%?

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(UPDATE: After this story broke over the weekend, at least one science blog is debunking these claims as impossible. As is the case with many stories on the Internet, take it with a grain of salt…)

Let’s see. When I was thirteen, I cared about getting good grades, obsessed over whether I should grow my hair out or get a boy cut, and surfed the web with prepaid Internet cards (yes, I used to do that, and it feels like ages ago. Which it sort of really is.)

What I wasn’t doing was using the Fibonacci sequence to increase the efficiency of solar panel systems by up to 50%.

Aidan Dwyer Fibonacci Sequence and Solar Panels

However, that was exactly what Aidan Dwyer was doing. Instead of doing what 13-year-old boys normally do (play video games, build LEGO figures, pick their noses, or whatever it is – I wouldn’t know), Aidan was coming up with a new design for the stand that holds solar panels in place.

While hiking up in the Catskills, Aidan glanced up and happened to notice that the trees’ branches form a pattern that can be described by the Fibonacci sequence. This is a sequence of numbers formed by adding the sum of the two previous numbers in the sequence to come up with the next one. (It goes something like this: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, and so on.)

Aidan Dwyer Fibonacci Sequence and Solar Panels

He constructed his own tree-like stand fitted with small solar panels and noted an increased efficiency of over 50% with his design. Aidan now holds a provisional U.S. patent for his solar panel stand re-design, which already has some interested parties eager to put his design into action.

[via Ubergizmo via Geeky Gadgets]






Comments (9):

  1. Mh says:

    I wonder if this isn’t just bogus. Since solar panels should work best when they’re standing at an right angle to the sun and the energy efficiency is directly proportional to the amount of sunlight hitting the panel, there’s no reason why a fibonacci-tree should work better at all.

    Considering how all light comes from the same direction (the sun), that tree he built should reduce the amount of sun rays hitting the solar panels instead of increasing them; first because the panels aren’t all perfectly directed at the sun, second because the “tree” itself might cast shadow on the panels.

    The only explanation, if this isn’t just a hoax, is that the tree’s panels were placed in a way that they’ve taken the sun’s movement during a day into account, while the flat panel was deliberately placed in a way that it only got, say, the light during morning hours.

  2. Wheatley says:

    Either the kid knew what he was doing and wanted to see how easily he could fool others, in which case he’s a good con artist. Or he actually believed what he was doing in which case he is just another dumb kid.

    Honestly only a the most oblivious of the human race would truly believe this. When I saw the tree design I burst out laughing. I want to see the moron who awarded him a patent.

  3. y4 says:

    @Mh:

    Obviously trees look the way they do for aesthetic purposes rather than energy efficiency. Thousands of years of evolution and survival of the fittest is just lies.

    lrn2science

  4. Mh says:

    @y4: Learn to read. Click the second link and think again, please.

  5. y4 says:

    I read your article. It lacks any sort of scientific proof, and your reasoning is shaky at best.

  6. Wheatley says:

    y4 are you serious? How old are you? Im a physics and math major, apart from being a post-graduate doctor. Mh’s article is spot on.

  7. Zachariah Wiedeman says:

    Sadly, Aidan is wrong. His experiment is flawed in multiple ways and the results are incorrect: Optimal angle is mathematically impossible to improve upon, Aidan was measuring voltage which doesn’t measure power generated, etc. However, kudos to Aidan for being the only human being “thinking” out of hundreds of others who just go along with whatever sounds good. For a complete breakdown of the problems with Aidan’s findings go here: http://optimiskeptic.com/2011/08/21/this-is-where-bad-science-starts/

  8. chris of the family morris says:

    The poor lad. I reckon he is onto something. I am not surprised that it has been labelled “flawed” as the scientists that are saying this receive million of pounds euros dollars whatever from their governments, who incidently more interested in oil because oil has an value to them and creats a reason to invade countries such as Lybia and Iraq. If we have total renewable energy then the massive oil companies owned by the government corporation would have no power or reason to have control over us by rising fuel prices etc etc. Instead of flawing this arguement they should be helping the boy and taking his theory on board, as he has a valid point. Trees collect the suns energy in the most efficient way knowen to man. Its nature. Nature is correct and more efficient than we are hence why we cannot make a camera lens as intricate and efficient as the human eye. Its being played down and will be played down because of coporate control.

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