Skyline University Nigeria

KNOWLEDGE UPDATE

Energy Harvesting From Plants: Emission-free Generation of Green Energy

Energy is the key driving force for development. The investments, inventions, and new industries that are the foundations of employment, inclusive growth, and shared wealth for entire economies are made possible by energy. The procedure through which environmental energy is drawn into a system and transformed into useful electrical power is known as energy harvesting.  The planet’s most plentiful source of energy is the sun. However, only a very small portion of solar radiation is transformed into usable energy globally.

In addition to harvesting electricity from the natural environment such as sunlight, vibration, wind, harvesting electrical energy can also be based on chemical transformations from living plants. The usage of plant-hybrid systems is one area of great interest for the creation of sustainable energy. But it’s not quite simple to conceive employing plants as a source of electrical energy. However, this is now a fact. For the first time, scientists have been able to turn a succulent Corpuscularia lehmannii plant into a living “bio-solar cell” that uses photosynthesis to produce power [1].

The scientists from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have used an iron anode and platinum cathode to examine one of the plant’s leaves, and they found that it had a voltage of 0.28V. When connected to a circuit, it could generate current for up to a day and reach photocurrent densities of up to 20 A/cm2. Even though these numbers are less than a conventional alkaline battery, however they only apply to one leaf. Previous studies on analogous organic devices suggested that connecting more leaves in series could increase voltage.

Electricity can also harvested from plant roots as plants excrete organic stuff into the soil, which is then broken down by bacteria, and this results in the production of electrons by bacteria that live around plant roots. In the process of breaking down, electrons are liberated [2, 3]. They can be harvested and converted into power using inert electrodes without compromising the plant’s ability to develop.

According to studies, plant biomass can be used to generate energy for small commercial electronics and plant-inspired, energy-efficient machinery with built-in energy storage. All plants can be a potential source of electrical energy; however, some plants can produce electricity more efficient than others. As internal factors, such as the morphology of the plant may plays an important role in the configuration and electrodes placement. Although the ideal is to favour anaerobic conditions or water-logging situations, as we see with paddy cultivation [4].

Energy can be obtained sustainably by simulating or utilizing the tissue of live plants, which may be an alternative means of harvesting electric energy. In long run this may aid in lessens the dependency on fossil fuel-based electricity to some extent.

References:

  1. Malewar A. (2023). New way to harvest electricity from succulent plants’ natural photosynthesis. Tech Explorist. https://tinyurl.com/42z4d6jv
  2. Schrama N. (2015). How to generate electricity from living plants. World Economic Forum. https://tinyurl.com/ea5u7m4b
  3. Priem J. (2023). No battery at hand, use a plant. https://tinyurl.com/yz4pacem
  4. Martinez R. D. R., Bermudez M. E. A. (2023). Production of electrical energy from living plants in microbial fuel cells. Clean Energy, Volume 7 (2): 408 – 416.

Dr. Sanjoy Kumar Pal is a Professor of Biology in Skyline University Nigeria. He has a PhD. in Animal Genetics from Indian Veterinary Research Institute, India.

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