We really can not ignore anymore all the innovations that scientists have found in order to encourage the use of alternative energy solutions. There are possibilities to live in energy efficient houses, to drive vehicles that use less fuel and less pollute, to harness the sun, wind, heat, water.. even to harness plants! Yes, flowers, fruit or vegetables can in fact create enough electricity to illuminate the garden where those plants grow. It may sound incredible, but the realization of this idea is perfectly possible.
Dutch scientists came up with this idea. There is being led an unusual experiment on the roof of a research institute of the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. There are 12 plastic containers filled with water and mud in which scientists grow various plants. However, plants are not in the lead role. The significance is in the relation between plants and bacteria that work together. The formula is simple: the plants produce carbon through photosynthesis and roughly 40 per cent of organic matter is carried into the soil where there are many micro-organisms – bacteria and fungi. The biologists have settled so-called bio-battery into the soil. These are two electrodes in which the growth of bacteria can produce electricity.
Microbial fuel cell
The knowledge that scientists use for this is old about 50 years. In fact all living things produce low power during digesting. Most living creatures use that little amount of electricity to manage processes in their bodies. However, bacteria release that electricity, which goes mainly into the air and then is combined with oxygen. On the other side, in anaerobic environments when there is no oxygen, the bacteria are looking for other substances to get rid of excess electricity. This fact was discovered by German scientists and the result of this was the invention of the microbial fuel cell – MFC.
The food for Bacteria
Bacteria in such a battery live in a special nutrient substrate in which two electrodes are inserted. The excess of electricity that bacteria produce goes directly to the negative pole – the anode. But this battery can produce the same amount of energy just as much is entered. That means for a continuous flow of electricity it is necessary to feed the bacteria regularly. It is the task of plants in plastic buckets on the roof of the university. They grow in the substrate and continuously produce glucose. It is in fact a natural solar cell. Plants absorb solar energy and give the bacteria so the bacteria produce electricity. This process takes place day and night.
Production of electricity varies
Depending on the time of day, outside temperature and plant species, a different amount of electricity is produced. Per square meter it is about 2 or 3 watts. But what can be done with this obtained energy? Let us consider that most mobile phones take just three watts to recharge. What a marvelous opportunity to charge your mobile phone and enjoy in the beauty of flowers!