There are only a few solar concentrator plants in the world, mainly because these multi-mirrored solar power production facilities require giant chunks of land and hefty investments. A new design developed at MIT could make these plants more feasible.
Using sunflowers as their inspiration, MIT researchers, led by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Alexander Mitsos, came up with a biomimetic design - a design that mimics nature - that better arranges the mirrors.
In solar concentrator parlance, the devices that hold the mirrors are called heliostats. Normally, the heliostats are arranged in concentric circles - bull's eye style - around a central tower. They reflect light from the sun toward the top of the tower, where there is a solar receiver. The receiver uses the intense heat to produce steam; the steam is used to turn a turbine that drives a generator, producing electricity.
Now look closely at the florets in the center of the sunflower photo above and imagine a bunch of heliostats arranged in that pattern.