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University of Oregon scientists, Richard Taylor and Margaret Sereno, joined the psychology of aesthetics and the electrical engineering of solar panels to answer two of society's biggest problems, clean energy production and stress among humanity.

In a succession of studies drawing in 370 participants, the researchers went through different fractal designs to decide which pattern looked the best. The winning models were based on an H tree structure in which fractal-shaped electrodes spring out like fingers in a repeating geometrical pattern appearing similar to the letter H.

The researchers referred to 13 studies that have found positive responses regarding the reduction of physiological stress in people viewing both fractal patterns in nature and computer-generated imitations. Fractal patterns visible on rooftop solar panels could help reduce the stress of passersby, the study claims.

The study is not the first of its kind to explore the possibility of using fractal-designed electrodes in solar panels but is the first to come up with a design that blends beauty with performance.

The study is published in PLOS ONE and is supported by the W.M. Keck Foundation and a scholarship from the Research Council for Science Advancement.

The project includes a collaboration with the Mohawk Group to create fractal carpets, which will be installed into the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. It also collaborates with Ihab Elzeyadi, a professor in the School of Architecture and Environment, to create light patterns cast by fractal window shades.

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Too Many People are Stressed

Stress currently costs the US economy more than $300 billion annually, according to Taylor. Time also reported last year that Gallup's annual Global Emotions report dubbed Americans as one of the most stressed-out people in the world. 

The stress that people experience every day is caused by many factors that are deep-rooted to today's society. Some of these factors include intense workload, inability to balance work and family life, changes in social standards and values, and a constant search for perfection. 

Stress affects all social groups and all age categories. However, some people are more deeply affected by its consequences than others. The degree of stress affecting people could depend on their personal, psychosocial, professional, and health background.

The World Health Organisation, regarding stress as a significant problem in society, provided effort in raising awareness of stress at work in developing countries, advising employers and worker representatives about stress as a modern hazard in a traditional working environment. 

Fractal Patterns Reduce Stress

Electrodes in solar panels are integrated into strips called busbars so that it enhances conductivity for electrical production. The traditional way was built on the Euclidean design, using a nonrepeating busbar rather than a repeating, across-scale fractal design for electrode placements. Although it proved to be successful in turning sunlight to energy, the designs were less appealing to the eye.

Taylor turned to nature's fractal geometry for different applications. His collaboration with Sereno now suggests that fractal electrodes in solar panel photodiodes will outdo busbars aesthetically. Seren says that our visual system sees fractals soothing and easy to process due to our constant exposure to nature's fractals seen in the environment. She adds that the ease in processing adds an aesthetic effect and stress reduction.

For maximum performance, the research team integrated the fractal and busbar designs. According to Taylor, the novel hybrid electrode captured the exceptional aesthetics of the fractal design and the remarkable electrical performance of the busbar design.

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