Flower power: biomimetics gives new meaning to solar plants

An Austrian company has taken the idea of flower power to the next level, designing an innovative new range of sun-tracking photovoltaic solar devices.

The range – Smartflower POP, POP+ and POP-e – was designed to mimic the natural movement of flowers as they track the sun across the sky.

biomimetics, renewable energy, solar power, smartflower

The product has been targeted at the domestic market, with the company behind the product, Smartflower, hopeful that the product offers a flexible and efficient solution to renewable energy, which could help to make homes self-sufficient and offer opportunities for owners to feed electricity into the grid.

The Smartflower POP looks like an oversized robotic sunflower complete with mechanical stalk and photovoltaic petals which follow the sun through the sky. With a 25-year lifespan, the Smartflower device offers a long-term solution for homeowners hoping to transition to renewable energy sources.

Taking inspiration from nature, the company based the design of the product on flowers, which naturally track the path of the sun to maximise the efficiency of photosynthesis. By building sun-tracking technology into their product, Smartflower has created a device which they claim is up to 40% more efficient than traditional, static photovoltaic installations.

With a surface area of 18m² and a dual-axis tracking mechanism, the Smartflower unfurls itself from its base and begins to track the sun at sunrise, through until sunset, when it folds up automatically and stores itself in its base overnight.

By tracking the sun throughout the day, the Smartflower maximises efficiency; in prime conditions, the device can generate as much as 4000 kWh, which is equivalent to the annual consumption of an average European home; as such, the Smartflower offers the chance for self-sufficiency and grid-independence.

The device has been rolled out across Europe, with customer testimonials from Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland praising the innovative design and practicality as a domestic solution.

And what’s biomimetics? It’s the principle of mimicking natural processes using technology, much like in this similar tree-recreating project by Iowa State University. Anything that marries nature, technology and energy efficiency is a win in our books.