The potential for biomimetic solar energy




McGinnis, Colleen Jean

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The purpose of this thesis is to explore the potential for integrating biomimetic thinking into the design and implementation of photovoltaic energy systems in a way that promotes ecological health, economic feasibility, and equal access to cleaner energy. Photovoltaic energy production is among the most promising renewable energy sources, however, current conventional photovoltaic systems exhibit a number of shortcomings. Steering innovation toward socio-technical systems that are integrated with ecological systems will help support human needs without inhibiting larger ecological function. This investigation began with the construction of a conceptual biomimetic lens from a foundation of literature related to biomimicry in the built environment. Next, the underlying elements, interconnections and functions of both the ecological systems involved in photosynthesis and socio-technical systems related to photovoltaic energy production were defined and examined. The biomimetic lens was then applied to each system to envision biomimetic approaches to address shortcomings of current conventional photovoltaic systems. The suggested approaches aim to address shortcomings in the design, manufacture, and implementation of photovoltaic systems in ways that mimic key principles found in biology and ecology. Since the success of ecological systems is embedded in the nesting of interrelated systems, the biomimetic lens was applied at multiple scales: the chloroplast/solar cell, the leaf/solar panel, the plant/solar array, and the ecosystem/community scale. The results of this study both suggest the direction of further research in the development of biomimetic solar energy systems and provide insight into the effectiveness of biomimetic thinking as a strategy for designing equitable, economical, and ecologically sound systems.




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