Swedish researchers have succeeded in the unthinkable: transforming a plant into a battery capable of collecting and generating electrical energy. But how was such a feat possible?
A study published in 2015 conducted by the Swedish University of Linköping explained how an electronic rose was able to conduct electricity, to be used as a transistor and could even change color after the application of an electric current well specific. This rose had absorbed an aqueous solution made up of polymers then synthesized conductive wires about ten centimeters long in its stem as well as electrodes in its leaves. In short, the plant reproduced the conditions of a real electrical circuit.
This invention had then nourished the utopian hope of making « pushing electrical components “, but in reality, it was rather a question of producing fuel cells based on photosynthesis, systems for monitoring the growth of plants or even a kind of “plant-antennas” that can receive and emit signals!
New results published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of March 1, 2017 and relayed in an article on the Ars Tecnica site have just been communicated by the same team of researchers. According to them, it is now possible to store energy in hybrid electronic roses whose applications are potentially numerous.
This feat was achieved by changing the molecular composition of plants to give them the ability to synthesize electrical energy in their organism. A polymer solution has been developed, plants absorb it and circulate it through their vessels through their own natural fluids. Thus, the conductive material acts as a network of electrical wires and was brought to the tips of their petals and leaves.
“The supercapacitors we created inside the plant structure can be charged hundreds of times without losing performance,” says Eleni Stavrinidou, lead author of the study.
Thus, the plants that have become electrical conductors are already capable of powering small devices in the researchers’ laboratory. The choice of the rose was not made by chance: its ligneous tissues proved useful for the experiment, because its vascular system “resembles that of trees”. Moreover, the next step on the scientists’ agenda will concern trees.
Ultimately, the researchers want to develop autonomous energy systems capable of optimizing plant growth. Capacitors will store energy in an electric field while batteries will keep that same energy in chemical form. This project will still require a lot of time to develop such systems, but the idea is in motion!
Sources: MotherBoard – Konbini – Futura Sciences