Tips&TricksScientists harness wind and water to generate electricity with artificial plants

Scientists harness wind and water to generate electricity with artificial plants

Scientists have created a plant that generates electricity.
Scientists have created a plant that generates electricity.
Images source: © Getty Images | lovelyday12

10:28 AM EST, January 28, 2024, updated: 4:44 AM EST, March 7, 2024

Electricity powers countless devices worldwide. Innovations such as electric cars, which recharge similarly to smartphones, have recently been released. Regrettably, electricity production has numerous side effects, one of the most severe being pollution affecting the natural environment. Scientists are exploring alternative, more eco-friendly solutions to mitigate the amount of harmful substances released. One includes using an artificial plant, but how can we extract electricity from it?

Miniature power plants shaped like plants

Scientists from Northeastern University in Boston have revealed their lengthy work on a plant-like mechanism that generates electricity. Miniature generators encased in artificial flowers are intended to produce electricity from wind and water. At first glance, these resemble common garden ornaments. Energy produced by these plant-like structures could power nearby street lights or household decor.

The most critical elements of the plant are its leaves, where the process of converting raw resources into electrical energy occurs. Tiny electrodes embedded in the synthetic tissues can produce a small quantity of electricity. The amount of energy generated depends on the water volume on the leaves or the wind gust speed. Although these artificial plants are still in the testing phase, the scientists behind them see significant potential and wish to share this innovation with the world.

An innovative invention

The scientists spent a considerable amount of time considering the structure of the fake plant to optimize the usage of water that settles on the leaves. Any texture that too closely mimics the natural one proves too slippery, causing water to slide off instantly. To rectify this, one researcher suggested coating the leaf with a water-repellent, or hydrophobic layer, which encourages water to adhere to the leaf. However, applying water may not be practical in areas where rainfall is infrequent or limited to a few months each year.

Artificial leaves can generate electricity using a kinematic system that captures wind gusts. The plant is composed of nylon nanofibers situated between layers of Teflon and copper electrodes. During a gust of wind, these layers press together, creating tiny electrostatic charges that are then converted into electricity. This kind of plant seems more practical given that windy conditions are more prevalent than rain. We will have to wait for further updates on these "magic" plants that could revolutionize our lives.

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