photo: Mike Wald
Though it's been known for some time that there was a small amount of electrical potential between many plants and the soil (the effect is described in an article at PLoS One) only recently has anyone put that trickle of electricity to use. The company is Voltree Power and their "bioenergy converter" is intended to be used (at least initially, and appropriately enough) as part of an Early Wildfire Alert Network. Sounds cool? It is:Thousands of Remote Sensors Monitor Forest
The Early Wildfire Alert Network consists of "thousands of humidity and temperature sensor nodes distributed over remote forestland. Each node contains a wireless transceiver that enables EWAN to instantly communicate the onset of wildfires as well as constantly monitor forest conditions for accurate, day-to-day, fire hazard prediction."
If that weren't interesting enough, by using their bioenergy converter Voltree says they have come up with a solution to a problem, replacing thousands of batteries, that has prevented such forest monitoring systems from being deployed. The bioenergy converter harvests the small amount of electrical potential that exists between the tree and the soil and uses that to charge EWAN's sensors.
Size of a Pack of Gum, and Long Lasting Too...
The bioenergy converter is touted as being "not dependent on wind, light, heat gradient or mechanical movement" and is "environmentally benign" to produce. It produces neither sound nor heat signature and is about the size of a pack of gum. Voltree also goes so far to say that "the useful lifetime of the device is only limited by the lifetime of the host."
Wildlife Detection Just the Beginning
Though their website offers no greater technical details than that, it does say that in addition to the wildfire monitoring application, the firm is investigating ways which the bioenergy converter could be put to use for border protection, climate science research, and additional remote environmental and agricultural applications.
:: Voltree Power and :: Clean Technica
The Benefits of Trees
Tree Power Could Save Forests From Fires
Get Rid of Coal and Use Trees Instead, Urges Hansen
Planting Trees to Kill Bad Odors and Reduce Emissions
Backyard Fruit Trees a Barely Tapped Resource for Urban Gleaning