Our world revolves around technology. Rarely do we see a person without their iPad or Samsung Galaxy S6 in hand checking email, sending text messages, updating social media, streaming live videos or taking photos. And with high usage rates, our eco tech devices require charging on a daily basis, which equates to higher energy consumption and costly electricity bills.
As we look toward a greener future, companies and products like Plant-E, Bioo and E-Kaia are paving the way for an eco tech revolution by harvesting the energy from living plants and soil to power our world. These innovative and cutting-edge eco tech ideas will drastically help save money, but more importantly, reduce the global carbon footprint.
An eco tech energy revolution?
As developing countries, especially larger ones, continue to grow and expand, the future will demand even more energy. Over 80 percent of our energy needs require fossil fuels, like coal, oil and gas. Burning these fossil fuels and emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is causing climate change, the driving force behind global warming, a rise in sea level and ocean acidification, the Global Economic Symposium says.
The energy crisis we face is not because we might run out of energy, but because we’re using it inefficiently. The world is in dire need of an energy revolution to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, reduce growing energy demands through sustainable and efficient means, while researching and developing alternative energy sources that will keep up with our future needs with less negative impacts on our environment.
Companies generating electricity from plants
Alternative energy sources are being developed worldwide — from solar to wind energy to a fairly new concept of living plant power. Thanks to technology developed by Wageningen University, electricity can be generated anywhere a living plant can grow and water is readily available.
Dutch company Plant-e has developed a product built up as a modular system — great for charging a smartphone, tablet or small electronic device.
The system takes advantage of photosynthesis, which allows a living plant to produce organic matter it uses for its own growth.
However, the majority of that organic matter is not needed and can’t be used by the plant, so it’s released into the soil through the plant’s roots. The soil houses naturally occurring bacteria, which has the ability to break down the excreted organic matter and, in the process, release electrons. These electrons have the potential to be used as electricity with no damage to the plant or hindrance to its growth. The modular systems created by Plant-e come in large and small DIY boxes, as well as a tube system that will be used in wetland habitats on a larger scale in the near future. DIY boxes come with all the materials you would need to build five to 25 plant batteries (depending on the size of the box), all you need to provide are the living plants.
Similar to Plant-e’s product, Barcelona-based Bioo generates energy from plants photosynthesis throughout the entire day making it readily available via a USB port camouflaged as a pebble in the planter. The binary biological cell with a solid biomass layer has a biological micro-organic solution that lays on top and is activated once it touches water. In between these complex layers lies the internal electrical circuit which stores the energy you would use to charge your electronics. The design leaves a cavity for oxygen flow, has space for soil and allows the water to be filtered and purified. Before you place your living plant inside the pot, you add water to activate the system and allow the electrons that separate in the soil to collect in the internal electrical circuit, then you simply connect your charger and allow your phone to juice up.
Also leading the energy revolution is the E-Kaia portable USB charger. Created by engineering students in Chile, the charger harnesses energy from soil and converts it into power you then use to charge your devices — in as little as an hour and a half.
They’ve placed a biocircuit in the soil to collect the byproduct electrons released in the soil, which is connected to a USB output above the plant pot.
The E-Kaia is similar in design to initiatives from Plant-e and Bioo, and is now financially supported from the Chilean Economic Development Agency.
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