Future Perfect: Generating electricity from living trees

living tree electricity

What’s happening right now?

Massachusetts-based electrical components manufacturer, MagCap Engineering, is on the verge of heralding a new era of bio-energy harvesting. The firm has already worked out ways to harness electricity from living trees, which can be touted as the next renewable energy revolution. This ultimate discovery of alternative energy source was detected in an interesting manner. A group of scientists hammered wire-attached nails into the tree trunk and a conductor into the ground. They have discovered a faint source of electricity in trees, which may lead to a potential revolution in green energy.


1. Scientists: Trees Produce Electricity

Trees Produce Electricity

Motivated by the MIT study, researchers at the University of Washington have successfully run an electric circuit from the power generated by trees. Though the amount of electrical power produced by trees is very slight, and won’t be adequate to power most electronic devices, its significance cannot be overlooked. Scientists are excited about the knowledge that this minimal amount of power will be sufficient to operate wireless sensors. These sensors could be helpful in identifying ecological conditions or forest fires and can also be employed to judge the strength of a tree.

The power-harnessing tool created by the researchers at UW is made out of a boost converter that can pile up and discharge very little amount of voltage. More scientific investigations are due to confirm what is achievable and non-achievable in terms of a tree power source.

2. MIT scientists discover why trees bear slight electric current

Tree electricity

We have already seen that the research team from MIT has detected living trees’ capacity to generate electricity. According to researchers, this faint amount of electricity is actually created by an imbalance in pH between the soil and a living tree. They have figured this out by doing experiments with platinum electrodes and indoor plants.

This discovery has paved new way to detect the way in which trees can raise alarm, when its own existence is in threat. For instance, when there is a forest fire or any other biological threat, trees can sense it and raise an alarm. Another practical use is to keep trees as quiet guards to sense any potential threats to nations. For instance, trees can give signals if there is any indication of smuggled radioactive components. This is possible since the slight amount of electricity harnessed from trees is adequate to power temperature and humidity sensors to wirelessly broadcast signals.

The concept

The method to tap into the electrical power of trees by UW researchers was indeed a breakthrough innovation. They further proved that electricity from living trees, though of very small voltage, can be put to serve practical purposes. The researchers, totally with the help of electricity from tree, have effectively run an electronic circuit. The new discovery of living trees functioning as nature’s alternative to the power outlet is sure to open up new avenues of discussion and prospects of discovery. The study is published in the scientific journal Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Transactions on Nanotechnology. Works on developing tree power-operated forest sensors are underway on the basis of trees capacity to produce enough power to run an electric circuit.

Our imagination may cross boundaries and we may want to plug into the surrounding trees to charge our iPods and cell phones. But, this kind of scenario is probably impossible to attain, since tree power is insufficient to power electronic devises of everyday use.

The advantages

The discovery of the new tree-power phenomenon has opened up various realms of scientific discussions regarding scaling up to this to any useful level. The lead researchers have made it clear that electricity from living trees is dissimilar to the popular potato or lemon experiment. In the latter case, the resultant current is due to the reaction of two diverse metals, whereas no such situation is present since same metals are used.

According to sources, MagCap Engineering has already tied up with a Dutch business who can be a possible investor. The company is pushing forward for a patent for a method in progression that will convert tree power to functional direct-current electricity. They are also looking into ways to enhance the faint power to something that of 12 volts. If this becomes materialized it will be an ultimate alternative to fossil fuels.

Finding out of methods to filter and stabilize tree power will pave for other possible uses such as charging batteries. Tree power is a clean and easily available energy, and more studies are underway to explore the hidden possibilities.

The impact

The discovery of tree power opens up new possibilities of looking into the global environment issues. Massive cutting down of trees contributes greatly to global warming, the grave and key environmental issue in the modern world. The increased temperature is caused by escalating greenhouse gases concentration. Global warming can be prevented or controlled only by trimming down the greenhouse gases concentration, which can be achieved only by trees. Planting more and more trees is the best and the most effective way to maintain the eco balance.

The new invention of trees’ capability to generate electricity should inspire everyone to plant trees and plants in their surroundings. This indirectly will save our planet from the serious issue of global warming. If more research open up new ways of using tree power, our dependence on non-renewable energies can be reduced to a great extent. All this will eventually lead to a pollution free green globe.

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