Skip to main content

The nature-inspired Smartflower is a smart solar panel that follows the sunlight

smartflower POP @Sony Center, Berlin
When it comes to soaking up the sun, don’t look to your over-tanned neighbor for pointers — look to your backyard autotrophs instead. We’re talking, of course, about plants, those cleverly engineered products of nature that understand better than just about anything the importance of solar power. So of course, it comes as little surprise that the latest solution for sustainable energy comes in the form of a giant sunflower … or rather, a solar panel that looks like a giant sunflower. Meet Smartflower, described as “a fully integrated, plug-and-play solar system that powers your world with clean energy.”

Not only does the Smartflower look an awful lot like overgrown flora, it behaves that way, too. You see, Smartflower does what natural flowers already know to do — follow the sun. At sunrise, this next generation solar panel unfolds itself, and sets its “petals” at a 90-degree angle in order to capture and produce energy. As the sun moves across the sky, the Smartflower adjusts itself accordingly until the sun finally sets, at which point the panel puts itself to sleep, folding back into itself. Similarly, if environmental conditions are not conducive to energy production (high winds, rain, etc.), Smartflower will protect itself and keep itself folded.

The Smartflower’s ability to follow the sun’s position is thanks to its GPS-based dual axis tracking, and because it’s always situated in the most efficient position, it claims to produce 40 percent more energy than traditional solar powers. It also doesn’t hurt that the Smartflower is self-cleaning — tiny brushes go to work every time the panel unfolds itself, cleaning the petals, and thereby improving efficiency by 5 percent.

As it stands, American customers will be able to get their hands on a Smartflower in mid-April. Already, around 1,000 units have found new homes across Europe, with some powering individual homes, while others gracing public spaces like the Botanical Gardens in Madrid, and a cafe in the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein in Austria. You can learn more about the Smartflower (and how to get one yourself) here.

Editors' Recommendations

Lulu Chang
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Fascinated by the effects of technology on human interaction, Lulu believes that if her parents can use your new app…
Parker Solar Probe detects a natural radio signal coming from Venus
When flying past Venus in July 2020, Parker Solar Probe’s WISPR instrument, short for Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe, detected a bright rim around the edge of the planet that may be nightglow — light emitted by oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere that recombine into molecules in the nightside. The prominent dark feature in the center of the image is Aphrodite Terra, the largest highland region on the Venusian surface. Bright streaks in WISPR, such as the ones seen here, are typically caused by a combination of charged particles — called cosmic rays — sunlight reflected by grains of space dust, and particles of material expelled from the spacecraft’s structures after impact with those dust grains. The number of streaks varies along the orbit or when the spacecraft is traveling at different speeds, and scientists are still in discussion about the specific origins of the streaks here. The dark spot appearing on the lower portion of Venus is an artifact from the WISPR instrument.

During its third Venus flyby on July 11, 2020, Parker Solar Probe's WISPR imager captured this view of Venus' nightside from 7,693 miles away. NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Laboratory/Guillermo Stenborg and Brendan Gallagher

A NASA spacecraft intended to study the sun has been doing some bonus science, revealing new information about Venus as it passes by the planet. It's been a long time since a spacecraft has taken a direct measurement of the Venusian atmosphere -- according to NASA the last time was almost 30 years ago when the Pioneer Venus Orbiter peered into the atmosphere in 1992 -- and the study has revealed some fascinating facts about our planetary neighbor.

Read more
Harnessing darkness: The race to solve solar power’s greatest problem
anti solar power night generation energy panels at

Renewable energy from waste: AuREUS wins first ever Sustainability Award | James Dyson Award 2020

The solar industry is growing at a breakneck pace, and thanks to that growth, renewable energy is now eclipsing coal as an energy source. But solar energy does have infamous flaws: It doesn’t generate electricity at night, and it doesn’t generate it very well when it’s cloudy. Solar power, as you surely realize, needs the sun.

Read more
High temperatures and a diamond anvil could lead to a solar cell breakthrough
worlds largest solar farms longyangxia dam park 2

To improve the performance of solar panels, scientists have been increasingly exploring the potential of perovskites, a material with a crystal structure that represents a game-changing component for emerging solar cell technologies. Perovskite solar cells promise two very exciting qualities: Boasting high efficiencies in converting sunlight to electricity, while also being low cost in terms of materials and production methods.

They're no hassle-free solution however. In fact, they pose a considerable challenge since, of the four atomic configurations the material can take, three are unstable at room temperature, and rapidly revert to a fourth configuration that is useless for solar applications.

Read more