Solar Panels Inspired by Leaves

File under:
Industrial Design

Written by Brian Ling (Design Sojourn)
Apr 03, 2008




Image source: SMIT

It is really Biomimicry at its best!

Samuel Cabot Cochran, as part of his final year thesis, and SMIT or Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology, has developed an awesome Green energy generation device. Obviously inspired by leaves, and aptly named Grow, the product can generate power from sunlight (photovoltaics) and the wind (flexible piezo generator).

Also it’s not a concept, as they have figured it out how to make it:

Each brick has 5 solar leaves which have a very flexible piezo generator at their stem. The manufacturing of these bricks could happen in a roll to roll printing process where PV, conductive ink, and piezo generators can be layered quickly and efficiently. The rolls can then be stamped and formed to create leaves and connection points. Each brick is designed so that at the end of their life cycle the valuable components, i.e. photovoltaic and piezo, can be stamped out and up cycled while the reusable material, i.e plastic, can be up recycled back into the production stream.

This leaf like design also fixes the problems we have with traditional solar cell slabs. It is just not as efficient, and the reason why you don’t see trees in nature that have only one big leaf. Now if we could some how turn the entire shape into that of a real tree…anyway in it’s current incarnation, it is a happy blend of practicality and inspiration from nature.

The other great thing about this design is that it is modular in nature (no pun intended). This means you can create a “wall” of generators as big or as small or in any shape you want! How clever is that? We have finally moved from “Green is Boring” to “Green is Damn Cool!”.


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Apr 04, 08 – 1:25 am

That’s amazing. Very creative and innovative. I’ve never seen anything like that before. Thanks for sharing!

Apr 04, 08 – 9:15 am

Hi Jenna,

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments. This sort of ideas are what this blog is all about! Please keep in touch!

Apr 04, 08 – 7:43 pm

This looks really cool… really nice form.
Like the innovative approach of putting it on wall.

Apr 05, 08 – 2:54 pm

Hi Saikat,

It’s pretty cool, you should check out the graphic on their site, it is “fluttering” in the wind, as if the wall had fur or hair!

Apr 08, 08 – 12:22 pm

Yes I checked it. Just amazing!

[…] Design Sojourn | Strategic Industrial Design Blog » Solar Panels Inspired by Leaves – […]

N Goos
Apr 23, 08 – 11:08 pm

I had a big wow effect when I saw the pictures of the solar pannels, it looks really nice. I like the way how all the small pannels together create a pattern, thanks for sharing this article DT.

Apr 24, 08 – 9:32 am

Hi N Goos,

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments!

david sparks
Apr 25, 08 – 2:48 am

this is very exciting. if you watch the movie the 11th hour you’ll pick up that a key point of the end of the movie is that new designs need to be made by new designers and they need to be modeled after nature in a particular way. that way is that in nature everythings waste is something elses food. except for our waste. the things we create… are simply dumped into the ocean.

what is so exciting about such a GREAT idea as this is that the excitement we all feel by looking at these images is just the first of many. while we may be in a very perilous time and we’re all nervous, we live in a great time because we get to experience inventions like this, new ideas and be the creators of them as well.

this is great.

Apr 25, 08 – 10:01 am

Hey David,

Thank you very much for your insightful comments and I fully agree! Please keep in touch.

Rob O.
Apr 25, 08 – 5:59 pm

First thought when I saw this leaf-inspired design for solar panels? This is what a solar panel designed by M.C. Escher would’ve looked like. I can’t get over how much this emulates some of his creations. Incredible!

N Goos
Apr 25, 08 – 6:09 pm

Wow, I guess I am not the only one who likes these panels, check out all the comments. Does anyone know how much these panels costs and how much electricity they generate?

Thanks for the nice article DT.

May 01, 08 – 6:16 am

very interesting, this is definetly green energy, inspired by green nateure’s technology. In our site we write about 3D solar cells and it is very much worth a read. so my site is

Jan 10, 10 – 5:59 pm

hi..liked ur stufff….can you tell me how much of electricity is tapped from a single leaf?

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