MAR 12, 2017 10:58 AM PDT

Turning Plants Into Power Generators

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

All plants have passageway networks inside of them where water and nutrients travel from one part of the planet to another, and researchers are discovering that these passageways can be harnessed in new and unique ways to benefit mankind.

Among the things that they can be useful for is generating and storing electricity, as a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences points out.

Can we harness plants to generate electricity for us?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

All plants naturally absorb sunlight and utilize it to produce both oxygen and energy via photosynthesis, but it may be possible to harness these passageway networks to generate electricity for communities by transforming these internal passageway networks into electrical circuits.

To do this, researchers needed to find a way to channel the energy plants produce. Using plants’ xylems and a new chemical development to their advantage, they managed to create passageways inside the plants that can both carry and store electricity.

To do this, a chemical dubbed ETE-S was injected into living plants' xylem networks. The chemical flowed through the networks just like water does, and once it settled in the passageways, it formed an electrical circuit that energy can travel through.

More importantly, the ETE-S chemical permeates the plant much better than earlier chemical prototypes did, which allowed for more complex electrical networks to be made inside the plant’s leaves, stems, and even their flower petals (where applicable).

These networks help guide electrical currents from one part of the plant to another and also proved capable of storing electricity similarly to capacitors in our modern electronics. This means it may be possible to manipulate plants in the future to generate electricity in an environmentally-friendly way.

While such a concept is probably a long way away in the future, the complex electrical networks could also be used for other, smaller experiments in the meantime. For example, perhaps having a better way to read a plant’s electrical signals could help us better understand how their internal electrical signal systems work.

Being that plants lack the nervous systems that animals use to transmit electrical signals, this entire study is brimming with potential for future plant research and it should be very interesting to see what come of all the research.

Source: Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JAN 29, 2021
Earth & The Environment
The surprising sex lives of lichen
JAN 29, 2021
The surprising sex lives of lichen
Just like eavesdropping neighbors, scientists from Quebec's Université-Laval are peeping in on the shocking s ...
FEB 07, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Watching the Body Plan Emerge
FEB 07, 2021
Watching the Body Plan Emerge
Animals grow from what looks like a clump of cells, but those cells organize into specific patterns, laying the right fo ...
MAR 03, 2021
Plants & Animals
Can Arctic Bearded Seals Compete with Human Noise?
MAR 03, 2021
Can Arctic Bearded Seals Compete with Human Noise?
Vocal communication is a primary key to survival for many species, including the Arctic Ocean's bearded seals. Accor ...
MAR 09, 2021
Plants & Animals
Study Highlights Importance of Chinook Salmon to Endangered Orcas
MAR 09, 2021
Study Highlights Importance of Chinook Salmon to Endangered Orcas
Many issues plague the iconic orcas of the Pacific Northwest United States, including declining salmon populations. ...
APR 05, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Scientists Regenerate Missing Teeth in Mice
APR 05, 2021
Scientists Regenerate Missing Teeth in Mice
While most people have 32 teeth, around 1% of the population has more or fewer due to congenital reasons. Now, researche ...
APR 15, 2021
Plants & Animals
A Protein That Creates a Fibonacci Sequence in Flower Heads
APR 15, 2021
A Protein That Creates a Fibonacci Sequence in Flower Heads
You're probably familiar with sunflowers, a member of the Asteraceae family. But the biology of the plant is a bit diffe ...
Loading Comments...