Plant-e generates electricity from living plants

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plant-electricityImagine charging your phone using the electricity generated by the plants in your window sill. Or turning on your ceiling lights with energy generated by your rooftop garden. Plant-e is making this reality with their patented technology. Patented by Wageningen University in the Netherlands in 2007, the technology is based on natural processes and safe for both the plant and the environment. In 2009, Plant-e took over the patent and started to commercialise it into different products. As a proof of concept, they have designed the Plant-e World, a small globe that rotates on energy generated by the accompanying bromeliad plant. Last summer, they have received € 50,000 subsidy from local Dutch governments to build a prototype for large-scale electricity generation in wet green areas. The prototype should evolve into a commercial system which can be placed on the market in 2016. It is expected that 280,000 kWh/year electricity could be produced per hectare, enough for about 80 households. The beauty is that this does not go at the expense of the green areas.

How is electricity generated from living plants?

How this technology exactly works can best be explained by the video below. Via photosynthesis, the natural process of converting light energy into chemical energy, a plant produces organic matter. Part of this organic matter is used for plant-growth, but a large part cannot 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 anode for the micro-organisms to donate their electrons to, the electrons can be harvested as electricity. Research has shown that plant-growth is not compromised by harvesting electricity, so plants keep on growing while electricity is concurrently produced.


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