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Research shows fractals could be pleasing in solar panels

Stress reduction and improved solar electricity could someday come together in an unexpected package, and a University of Oregon study suggests that a new design of eye-pleasing, fractal-patterned rooftop solar panels could deliver the goods.

In an open-access study published in the journal PLOS ONE, an eight-member team led by UO physicist Richard Taylor and UO psychologist Margaret Sereno combined the psychology of aesthetics — in this case, the appreciation of beauty seen in nature — and the electrical engineering of solar panel designs.

“Our findings have the potential to address two major challenges of today’s society simultaneously: the critical need for increased clean energy production and the need to reduce escalating stress-induced illnesses,” Taylor said. “Stress currently costs the U.S. economy more than $300 billion annually.”

Taylor has drawn on nature’s fractal geometry for diverse applications, ranging from art authentication to a patented approach to create retinal implants to restore human vision. His collaboration with Sereno now suggests that fractal electrodes in solar panel photodiodes will surpass busbars aesthetically.

The studies drew from biophilia, defined in a hypothesis introduced in 1984 by Harvard University naturalist Edward O. Wilson as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.” The current work is the latest in a series of publications by Sereno and Taylor investigating fractal fluency.

You can read the full Around-the-O article here.