Science is amazing, and we just cannot get enough of new innovations from day to day. One of the innovations that scientists recently discovered is how to generate electricity from unexpected source, which is shrubs.
Even though it sounds a little bit like a sci-fi story, but it is actually true. Yes, the shrubs that we usually see in the garden can actually become an energy source. Therefore, it would literally become a ‘green’ energy.
It answers a long-asked question whether we can generate energy, especially in the form of electricity, from the abundant plants growing on our planet. But how come the researchers unraveled this hidden gem?
Let’s talk about this discovery and the potentials of the ‘green’ energy.
Electricity from Shrubs
For a long time, researchers have already known that plants can produce electricity. In fact, every living being can, as for example our brain neurons transfer information in the form of electricity. But the amount and quality of it is so small that it is ignorable.
However, still it is a fact that all living being can produce electricity. For plants, the key is in its biochemical processes that produce electrons. Electrons are the electrically charged particles in atoms and our electricity depends on the movements of the electrons.
The energy we get from electricity is produced when electrons move between atoms. According to researchers, in plants including shrubs the jumps happen when the plant is cooking or photosynthesizing.
“During photosynthesis, light drives a flow of electrons from water that ultimately results in the generation of oxygen and sugar. This means that living photosynthetic cells are constantly producing a flow of electrons that can be pulled away as a ‘photocurrent’ and used to power an external circuit, just like a solar cell,” as explained in American Chemistry Society.
But as we have explained above, the amount of electricity used to be neglectable because it is too small. Even though we can harvest the energy, it is usually too small to fulfill our needs let alone being harvested for our daily electricity demands.
Harvesting The Electricity from Shrubs
Now, let’s talk about how the researchers pulled out the electricity from shrubs. The kind of shrub that they tried to harvest electricity from was succulent Corpuscularia lehmannii or many of us know it by the name ice plant.
The reason why the ice plant is chosen is because it contains a lot of water in it. Dense amount of water in ice plant is ideal for the test because it means that electrons can convert more of it into oxygen and sugar.
Based on the test, one single leaf of the ice plant could produce up to 0.28 Volts of electricity. That’s a good number for a single leaf, even though it is still far from the amount of electricity that a car battery can produce which is 12.6 Volts.
It didn’t stop there. While the voltage of the electricity was incomparable to usable battery, the researchers stressed that connecting multiple leaves could increase the number. Therefore, we may say that this finding opens up a new path of green energy generation.
Not only it would give us an alternative proposition for renewable energy generation, it may also make us appreciate plants more. Who knows that in the future we may plant an electric plant to power up our houses?
Plant Bacteria Electricity
Another idea for harvesting electricity from plants came from Chief Marketing Officer of Plant-e, Nanda Schrama. Like the research above, this one also generates electricity from harvesting the electrons emitted by the biological processes related to the plants.
“In simple terms, electrons are a waste product of bacteria living around plant roots – plants excrete organic matter into the soil, which is broken down by bacteria. In the breakdown process electrons are released. It is possible to harvest them using inert electrodes and turn them into electricity, without affecting the plant’s growth in any way,” as explained by Schrama.
This method doesn’t require the researchers to dig up the soil and even disturb the lives of the plants. The researchers just need to put the electrodes around 5 to 30 centimeters in the plants’ roots system.
“In the lab we’re currently generating about one watt per square meter, and we believe it’s possible to get that up to about three watts. To put that in perspective, at three watts per square meter, in principle you’d need approximately 125 square meters of suitable land to power an average family home in the Netherlands,” the researcher explained.
The only problem now for this technology to go up on the stream is the cost of it. Compared to other renewable energy generations, this one is relatively more expensive. Maybe it is still something to be thankful for.
Free Carbon Absorber
Is there anyone among us who still question the importance of plants? They are literally the biggest supporter of life, because they have various uses too many to be mentioned in just one mere online article like this.
One of them is, instead of producing carbon, plants including shrubs absorb carbons. So, if one day the technology can actually be used commercially, we will get the most beneficial energy generator ever invented on this planet.
One of the most important functions is bringing back ecosystem to life, which means the presence of plants can spark life by itself. But what’s interesting about plants is, they do the job differently between one place to another.
The magic of plants remains even though they have to show it differently between one place to another because different place has different problems. In example, in one of our articles, we have mentioned that urban forests are actually equipped with some superpowers that are actually useful for the residents.
Trees are natural mitigators for rainfall runoff because they can absorb excessive amount of rainwater falling to the cities. Not only that, we have learned since we were so young that urban forests can reduce the carbon emissions from vehicles and other activities.
So, environmentally, planting trees is the simplest flood-prevention and pollution reduction method with the highest success rate.
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