Scientists have developed energy generators from leaves, powered by water and wind

Artificial leaves made of silicone rub against natural ones under the influence of the wind. In this way, they want to create ecological power supplies for devices.

Relatively recently, it was discovered that the tissue found in the leaves of plants can conduct electricity, and the surface of the leaf is capable of insulating conductors. This means that the plants are electrified, and this can be used to power electrical devices. How? With a little help from wind and water.

Energy from rubbing the leaves

Scientists from the Italian Institute of Technology decided to use the ability of plants to electrify, creating a hybrid to generate energy at low cost. To do this, they developed artificial leaves made of a silicone and transparent material that, firstly, allows the necessary light to pass through the plant, and secondly, does not damage it due to its delicate structure. This is very important, because the task of the artificial leaf is to rub against its natural counterpart and thus generate a charge.

Source: Italian Institute of Technology

In the laboratory, the leaves are set in motion by a small fan, and the whole thing is connected to an electrode made of indium tin oxide. In addition to wind, they also tested the effectiveness of water by simulating raindrops falling on leaves to make them move. In this way, they managed to create semi-natural energy generators, and its exact amount depends on the strength of the wind, leaf area, rainfall intensity and the height from which the water falls on the plant. Therefore, the system works best with large and strong leaves – for example, such as those of a fig tree.

In the future, they can be used to power lighting in gardens

As you can probably guess, the purpose of this research is to create natural energy generators in the future, located in gardens and special plantations. Of course, there is no need to compare this solution with photovoltaics or wind farms, because the amount of energy obtained by rubbing a leaf against a leaf is much smaller, but Italian researchers recommend this solution as an alternative to powering organic agricultural crops. Experts also believe that this method is perfectly suitable for lighting a small garden, which is justified in the face of rising electricity costs. An additional advantage is the fact that the already existing resources, i.e. the plants surrounding us, are used, thanks to which the method does not generate additional waste.

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Making one silicone leaf costs about $2, and the rest of the apparatus is negligible. That’s why the team from the Italian Institute of Technology believes that commercial exploitation of the idea will take place within a decade. In the meantime, the researchers want to focus on minimizing the apparatus and maximizing the amount of energy produced.

They also intend to continue experimenting with plants – they used ivy to create … natural radio antennas. It turned out that ivy can detect waves from a distance of 8 kilometers, because the inner part of the leaf contains water and ions, thus creating an ionic conductor. Although they themselves admit that at the moment it is difficult to find a practical solution to this discovery.

“There are many things that plants can’t do and we can’t. I would even say that, in general, people are not aware of the possibilities of plants” – Serena Armiento, PhD student at IIT

Stock image form Depositphotos

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