Science 2 min read

Researchers Successfully Generate Electricity From Plants

Harvesting electricity from plants could have massive benefits to future zero emission power projects. | Image By Mrs_ya |

Harvesting electricity from plants could have massive benefits to future zero emission power projects. | Image By Mrs_ya |

In the quest for renewable and sustainable energy, science is continuously experimenting with various alternative sources. Whether its sweet energy from sugar or a urine-powered fuel cell, scientists’ search for green energy often comes from the most unlikely sources.

Since nothing screams “green” more than generating electricity from plants, guess what some researchers did?

That’s right; they generated energy from plants. Here’s how it started.

An interdisciplinary team of biologists and roboticists at IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Pontedera, Pisa discovered that living plants are an alternate source of power.

In order to prove this, they demonstrated that a single leaf could generate over 150 volts. In other words, that’s powering 100 LED light bulbs from just one leaf. Here is how it works.

Generating Electricity From Plants

Some plant leaves contain unique compositions which allow them to convert mechanical force into electrical energy.

First, the plant gathers the electric charges on its surface through a process called contact electrification. Then it transmits the charges into the inner tissues. Like electrical cables, the tissues send the generated electricity to other parts of the plant.

As a result, you can charge your smartphone by simply plugging it into the plant stem.

Since innovation never stops, the researchers decided to take it a step further. Using the principle described above, the researchers explained how a plant could convert wind into electricity.

Read More: New Study Shows Deep Flaws of the Global Agricultural System

Generating Electricity From a Hybrid Tree

Taking the simple principle to the next level, the researchers modified a Nerium Oleander tree with artificial leaves.

The goal was simple, to convert wind into electrical energy. So, every time the wind blew and leaves moved, the hybrid tree produces electricity.

Since the electricity generated increases with the number of leaves touched, the smart approach is to take advantage of the plant’s surface. As such, any part of the leaves that has no natural covering is covered with artificial ones.

The hybrid tree experiment is the first step in the European-Funded Growbot project, coordinated by Barbara Mazzolai. The researchers believe that we could live in a future where electricity is partly derived from the plants around us.

Do you think this method will be able to harvest enough energy to sustainably power homes?

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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