Several studies in the past have pointed out that plants can be used to generate electricity. While the theories used here are a little different than what goes behind an orange-powered light bulb, researchers at Wageningen Unviersity have come up with a fuel cell that makes use of the organic byproduct of photosynthesis to produce electricity.
The research team involved in the project state that during photosynthesis organic material is produced that the plants can’t digest and hence it’s secreted through the roots. Bacteria in the soil break this material down and release electrons. The university states that they’ve developed fuel cells to make use of these electrons to produce renewable electricity.
While we might come up with thousands of possible applications for the tech, the research group says that the first prototypes could be used flat green roofs in remote areas in developing countries and when the tech hits a better efficiency rating, it could herald the development of central grids on areas of marshland. The green energy producing green roofs could become a reality as soon as 2015.
At present, the technology is able to produce 0.4W of green power per square meter of plant growth with the researchers confident that they can increase the output to 3.2W on the same area, which would allow an average household to be powered by a 100sqm green roof. The research team has created a company, dubbed Plant-e, which hopes to bring the product to the market by next year to power electronic devices and LED lights.