Nature

Dutch Scientists Are Harnessing Electricity From Living Plants To Power Cell Phones And WiFi

It seems like there are near endless ways to produce power these days, even simply pulling it from the air around you. Now, Plant-e, a Dutch company, has found a way to harness the power of plants. They believe that plants can power cell phones, street lights, and can even act as Wi-Fi hotspots. Their flagship project called Starry Sky was launched last November near Amsterdam. The project powered more than 300 LED streetlights.

How does it work? Plant-e explains on their website:

“Via photosynthesis a plant produces organic matter. Part of this organic matter is used for plant-growth, but a large part can’t be used by the plant and is excreted into the soil via the roots. Around the roots naturally occurring micro-organisms break down the organic compounds to gain energy from. In this process, electrons are released as a waste product. By providing an electrode for the micro-organisms to donate their electrons to, the electrons can be harvested as electricity. Research has shown that plant-growth isn’t compromised by harvesting electricity, so plants keep on growing while electricity is concurrently produced.”

Imagine for a moment that you have a house with a tree growing right through the center of it. Pretty neat, right? Now imagine that same house also being powered by that tree. Could you imagine? No more nasty coal plants, no more environment-destroying hydroelectric dams, just plant power.

This technology has a long way to go. LED lights are easy to power because they're so energy efficient, often using 90% less electricity than their incandescent counterparts. But Plant-e hopes to scale up its technology.

Want to learn more? Check out www.plantpower.eu.

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