13-Year-Old Makes Solar Breakthrough with Fibonacci Sequence

Northport, N.Y.  13-year-old Aidan Dwyer has used the Fibonacci sequence to devise a more efficient way to collect solar energy, earning himself a provisional U.S. patent and interest from “entities” apparently eager to explore commercializing his innovation.

“The elegant tree design out-performed the flat panel array during winter exposure, when the sun is at its lowest point, by up to 50 percent,” reports the Northport Patch.

Aidan explains his process on a webpage at the American Museum of Natural History, which recently named him one of its Young Naturalist Award winners for 2011.

Wikipedia explains that in 1202, mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, known as Fibonacci, published Liber Abaci which laid out the sequence. Though described previously by Indian mathematicians, Fibonacci introduced the concept to Western society.

TreeHugger writes: Briefly, the Fibonacci sequence starts with the numbers 0 and 1, each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two – 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13…. These numbers, when put in ratios, happen to show up in the patterns of branches and leaves on trees.

Aidan, having been mesmerized by tree-branch patterns during a winter hike in the Catskills, sought to investigate why.

His hunch: “I knew that branches and leaves collected sunlight for photosynthesis, so my next experiments investigated if the Fibonacci pattern helped.”

One thing led to another, and before you know it, this kid, three years from being eligible for a driver’s license, had built a tree-like stand affixed with small solar panels in the Fibonacci pattern. He compared its ability to collect sunlight to a flat-panel collector. And Nature won.

Summing up his research and imagining the possibilities, Aidan wrote: “The tree design takes up less room than flat-panel arrays and works in spots that don’t have a full southern view. It collects more sunlight in winter. Shade and bad weather like snow don’t hurt it because the panels are not flat. It even looks nicer because it looks like a tree. A design like this may work better in urban areas where space and direct sunlight can be hard to find.”

Read Aiden’s piece, and see more images:  The Secret of the Fibonacci Sequence in Trees.

15 responses to “13-Year-Old Makes Solar Breakthrough with Fibonacci Sequence

  1. This young man is brilliant. It is very optimistic to see such a young person grasping what nature’s language is trying to teach us about our world and creation. He deserves much success.

    I would like to clarify, however, that a provisional patent is not earned, it is purchased for the purpose of having patent protection in order to exhibit your invention without fear of someone being able to usurp your idea away from you while you await the granting of the patent…. or something along those lines, foregoing the customary waiting period before protection of “patent pending” kicks in. It is purchased protection… not earned. I’ll bet he had to pay in order to disclose his idea. The idea that the patent office is magnanimous is absurd.

  2. This young man is not only brilliant, he’s a budding Druid! Yay.

  3. i wish you had a 1+ button because i´m using google plus and i want to share this article.

  4. Excellent discovery which once again proves that where we have still yet to go Mother Nature has already been and gone.

    This young man has an awareness of his surroundings that will stand him in good stead for the future. I wish him well.

  5. Just simply amazing… I hope the venture capitalists don’t bury the project after buying into it.

    like they did with the electric car back in the 60s

  6. You have displayed a very interesting correlation. Have you explored other natural sequences?

  7. Look at the Solarbaum (solartree) created by sculptor Hartmut Skerbisch in 1998 in the City of Gleisdorf in Austria! Anyway a. great idea of the boy!

  8. Aidan’s idea stresses only the spiral aspect the Fabonacci sequence illustrates. There is another design element he is apparently not aware of (yet) at work in his experiment/demonstration, that is just as interesting, applicable and warrants attention in his work. Albeit, further advanced education may serve him well, so let’s give him the opportunity to advance -he obviously has a sharp mind to work with-, i.e., I am certainly not being critical of Aidan or his work. Just saying he needs to expand on his idea(s), experimentation, work, etc. The additional idea I’m speaking of is fractals or fractal geometry, as per Benoit Mandelbrot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beno%C3%AEt_Mandelbrot

  9. More inspiration every day! We’re gonna make it just fine here on Terra.
    Bravo Aidan!!!!

  10. Sadly, there has been no “breakthrough” as Aidan’s experiment is flawed in multiple ways and his 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/

  11. That is just awesome! I’m so happy about this discovery! Very intelligent young man, using his intelligence for the good of the planet. Thank you for sharing this with the rest of the world.

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