Power from Trees
Currently a team of MIT researchers are using platinum electrodes and ficus plants to discover the truth of feeble electric currents from trees. They have come up with an answer. They state that the pH difference between the soil and the living tree is the cause of creating electric currents. Now scientists are debating over how to use this power source for human benefits.
The most practical thing is fire alarm for forest department, originating from the trees itself. Trees electric power can charge a battery. This battery in turn will be connected to a small sensor. This sensor will power a brief radio transmission. That radio signal will transport daily soil and air condition measurements to a network of much larger, solar powered Forest Service environmental monitoring stations. Those sensors will also give out a crisis signal in the event of a sudden rise in air temperature that might indicate the outbreak of a forest fire.
“I truly believe it has potential,” said Victoria Henderson, branch chief for equipment and chemicals at the Forest Service’s National Interagency Fire Center. “If this can enhance our existing technology to a degree that would gain us a lot more fire protection, then we’d look at a plan to purchase it for our nationwide infrastructure, which is huge.”
Scientists have also discovered that the greater the pH difference between the tree and soil the more the energy will be produced. It is estimated that five to 300 nanowatts of current can be tapped from every tree every time. The device is being designed and marketed by Voltree Power. It is a recently formed subsidiary of MagCap, an electronic components maker. Voltree is collaborating with Netherlands-based GreenPeak Technologies. They have set up similar low power wireless sensors for companies such as Honeywell and Kronos. But deploying such a mesh network of radio-linked sensors on a large scale will be first of its kind. These sensors will be much smaller than the Forests Service’s monitoring stations. This will help Forest Department in quickly pinpointing the location and time of the fire.