SCHEMES for the conversion of sunlight to useful (electrical, mechanical, chemical) energy all make use of the high spectral temperature of solar radiation relative to the terrestrial ambiance. Some schemes, but not others, also make use of the high directivity of the solar flux. For example, focusing mirror arrays require direct sunlight, while photovoltaic devices are indifferent to the directness or diffuseness of light of a given intensity. In biological systems, photosynthesis evidently makes little use of sunlight directivity, since it is not observed to depend strongly on plant orientation on angular scales as small as half a degree (the size of the Sun); on the other hand, Kevan1 reports some heliotropic, arctic flowers whose corollas are nearly paraboloidal and focus direct (but not diffuse) radiation on the sporophylls.
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Landsberg, P. T., in Electricité Solaire: proc. Int. Conf. Toulouse, 1–5 March, 1976 (in the press).
Landau, L. D., and Lifschitz, E. M., Statistical Physics, Section 19 (Pergamon, London, 1958).
Planck, M., The Theory of Heat Radiation, Section 157 (Dover, New York, 1959).
Oxenius, J., J. quant. Spectros. Radiat. Transfer, 6, 65 (1966).
Monteith, J. L., Principles of Environmental Physics, Chapter 3 (Americal Elsevier, New York, 1973).
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PRESS, W. Theoretical maximum for energy from direct and diffuse sunlight. Nature 264, 734–735 (1976). https://doi.org/10.1038/264734a0
What limits photosynthesis? Identifying the thermodynamic constraints of the terrestrial biosphere within the Earth system
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