Is Tapping Trees the Greenest Electricity Source Out There?


photo: Ryan Welsh via flickr

While sticking electrodes into tree trunks to harvest energy probably won't power your fridge, car, or household lights anytime soon, a recent piece in New Scientist reminds us how the very small amounts of energy that can be produced directly from the trunks of trees may one day be able to put to good use:Electrodes in Tree & Soil Provide Power
The idea is that by placing electrodes into the tree trunk and into the soil nearby a small amount of electricity can be produced -- roughly similar to the venerable potato battery.

How small? Somewhere between 20 and a few hundred millivolts -- yes, really small. However, a team of electrical engineers, led by Babak Parviz from the University of Washington, devised a a voltage boost converter that stores up that energy, periodically releasing up to 1.1 volts -- something more usable.

The application for this Parviz says is in powering devices that could be used by ecologists monitoring trees' physiology and the areas immediately surrounding the trees.

Tree-Powered Wildfire Monitoring Already in Development
This is the first group attempting to harvest electricity from trees: About one year ago TreeHugger highlighted the efforts of Voltree Power, which is developing tree-powered wildfire detection networks.

Read more: New Scientist
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Tags: Alternative Energy | Electricity | Renewable Energy

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