Today we are leaving a bit of the usual vision of the orchard and the garden to delve a little into a project that although it is still being developed and may be a new vision of the future of renewable energy . A phrase that many would classify (myself included) as impossible would be: “Electricity crops” what !! ?? Let’s see what this is about.
GENERATION OF ELECTRICITY WITH LIVE PLANTS. UTOPIA? NO LONGER
All the innovations of whatever type that science leaves us throughout the generations are based on this phrase. An idea, a project. This is what a group of researchers from the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands thought one day to create a renewable energy source:
- The idea: If plants generate surpluses in their metabolic processes … could these surpluses be used to create energy?
- The project: Plant-e. A technology focused on capturing excess photosynthetic energy from plants. And they got to work.
An important detail of this idea is that we do not produce plants to process them and generate biofuels. We are literally talking about obtaining energy from living plants, without the need to destroy them to create other products derived from their plant structures. This is a big difference with the rest of renewable energies generated with plants.
The Plant-e company was founded in 2009 and since then has been researching and working tirelessly to develop on a large scale what they have already demonstrated on a laboratory scale. Generate electricity through the excess photosynthetic energy of plants.
HOW IS THIS ENERGY OBTAINED?
Plants can regulate the photosynthesis process to a certain point but ultimately, in their metabolic processes they have surpluses that they must eliminate . These surpluses of photosynthesis when not needed, the plant “eliminates” through the roots incorporating them into the soil / plant system. These secreted metabolites generate the existence of a relatively intense microbiological activity in the environment of the roots. Many microorganisms take advantage of said organic matter of the plant for their development, decomposing them and releasing electrons to the environment (among other things) in the decomposition processes. Therefore, in the soil / plant environment we have electrons that can be used. But how?
If we control the soil plant system by making it a “bucket” with a membrane that separates said environment into the two main parts of a battery, the cathode and the anode, we can capture those electrons from microbiological processes and incorporate them into energy consumption store them in a battery.
AND ISN’T IT BAD FOR PLANTS?
No. They have also investigated and plants continue to grow at their normal rate, whether or not these electrons are captured so … why not take advantage of them?
THE REQUIREMENTS OF THIS RENEWABLE ENERGY
Like everything, this project has logical limitations. We cannot develop this system with just any plant at the moment. For now, the system focuses on those plants that, due to their root constitution, grow without problems in flooded substrates due to their resistance to root suffocation due to lack of oxygen. These are the so-called macrophytic or hydrophytic plants . There are numerous species of plants that can thrive in these environments and that today are used in pioneering projects also in wastewater treatment.
FUTURE POTENTIAL OF THIS RENEWABLE ENERGY
Green roofs with electricity generation
There are green roof projects for the purposes of isolation, fixation of CO 2 and purification / storage of rainwater among other goals. What if, in addition to that, we generate electricity that supplies a good percentage of the electricity consumption of a house?