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As the solar code in California and other places advances, so too does the technology. The advances in technology can have a big pay off. This Forbes article shares a new solution that may produce 400% more energy than typical panels.

Imagine your roof covered in tiny sunflower-like solar collectors that provide all the energy you need to run your home. Sound farfetched? Yesterday, maybe; today, not so much. Researchers at UCLA and the California Nanosystems Institute have developed technology that could make a roof of tiny sunflowers a reality.

If you’ve grown sunflowers, you’re probably familiar with phototropism, the phenomenon where younger sunflowers change position in order to face the sun as it moves across the sky. The movement helps the growing plant maximize the energy it receives from the sun. Solar collectors would also benefit if they could maximize input by orienting toward the sun throughout the day. The problem was that no artificial materials were capable of both identifying a light source and tracking its movement.

The researchers solved this problem using nanostructured polymers that respond to light. They call their system a SunBOT which is short for a sunflower-like biomimetic omnidirectional tracker. The polymers form the stem of the SunBOT which bends toward the light. The “flower” is a tiny solar collector that is less than 0.04 inches wide. SunBOTs accurately track moving light sources in all directions and across a broad range of temperatures. The researchers showed that an array of SunBOTs harvested up to 400% more energy than typical solar harvesting systems when light struck the collectors at oblique angles.

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