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Mon Dec 10, 2012, 12:01 AM

 

Electrical device plugs directly into trees for power. This is cool.

In today's world of high-tech portable gadgets, iPods and cell phones, we've become dependent upon readily accessible electric outlets to power our devices and charge our batteries. But now researchers at the University of Washington have discovered nature's alternative to the power outlet: living trees.

That's right, living trees. UW engineers Babak Parviz and Brian Otis have invented an electrical device that can be plugged directly into any tree for power. "As far as we know this is the first peer-reviewed paper of someone powering something entirely by sticking electrodes into a tree," said Parviz.

The research was based upon a breakthrough study last year out of MIT, when scientists found that plants generate a voltage of up to 200 millivolts when one electrode is placed in a plant and the other in the surrounding soil. Those researchers are already designing devices which act as forest sensors powered entirely by this new method. But until now, no one has applied these findings to the development of tree power.

It all began last summer with UW undergraduate student Carlton Himes (also the study's co-author). He spent his summer wandering around the woods surrounding campus, hooking nails to bigleaf maple trees and connecting them to his voltmeter. Sure enough, the trees registered a steady voltage of up to a few hundred millivolts.

The next step for the UW team was to build a circuit to run on the available tree power. Because the voltage generated by the trees can be so small, the resulting device -- a boost converter -- was specialized to take input voltages of as little as 20 millivolts to be stored to produce greater output. The device's produced output voltage ended up being 1.1 volts, which is enough to run low-power sensors.

more at link. http://m.mnn.com/green-tech/gadgets-electronics/stories/electrical-device-plugs-directly-into-trees-for-power

18 replies, 2471 views

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Reply Electrical device plugs directly into trees for power. This is cool. (Original post)
Whovian Dec 2012 OP
Electric Monk Dec 2012 #1
Tumbulu Dec 2012 #3
glinda Dec 2012 #5
Tumbulu Dec 2012 #16
glinda Dec 2012 #17
mindwalker_i Dec 2012 #2
burrowowl Dec 2012 #4
oldhippydude Dec 2012 #6
LineLineReply .
eShirl Dec 2012 #8
Spitfire of ATJ Dec 2012 #7
MadHound Dec 2012 #9
glinda Dec 2012 #18
CBGLuthier Dec 2012 #10
TheBlackAdder Dec 2012 #11
dixiegrrrrl Dec 2012 #13
snooper2 Dec 2012 #15
Ganja Ninja Dec 2012 #12
AlexSatan Dec 2012 #14

Response to Whovian (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 12:14 AM

1. So would that be almost enought juice per tree to light an led?

I wonder what the long term effects on the trees would be, too...

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Response to Electric Monk (Reply #1)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 12:30 AM

3. Yes, my question too

I would not like to stress the trees.

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Response to Tumbulu (Reply #3)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 01:20 AM

5. When you put nails in trees it causes them to be subject to disease and infestations.

Everyone that lives in the country that cares about nature knows that. So I am not amused at this "discovery".

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Response to glinda (Reply #5)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 03:00 PM

16. Good point

How do the sugar maple people deal with this I wonder? I am in the west and have no experience with that practice, but have always wondered how the trees recover.

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Response to Tumbulu (Reply #16)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 09:34 PM

17. Trees have sap and the ability to heal themselves and basically I think 3 layers

but the difference is that in the "process" as the Maple tree shoots up sap from the bottom the holes are very "shallow" and also done during the freeze and the frost giving the tree adequate time to regenerate , grow, heal and seal. If you just go willy nilly drilling holes in trees especially deep ones and at all different times of year, you may well see trees become diseased and die.
I don't like articles that fail to educate the public and then say "Hey! A new discovery"" ...but who cares if the trees get sick.

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 12:19 AM

2. The Power Of The Wood Is Supreme

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 12:33 AM

4. Does the tree cry OUCH

How many electrode bite or bark beetle bites can a tree take?

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 01:54 AM

6. might have better results with a current bush...n/t

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Response to oldhippydude (Reply #6)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 03:12 AM

8. .

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 02:56 AM

7. Why am I reminded of "Avatar"?

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 06:56 AM

9. Great, now trees are going to perish at a far quicker rate,

 

As one person after another sticks what are essentially nails into the trees, damaging the oh so vital inner bark layers, and leaving behind open holes that are vulnerable to disease and bug infestation.

Real bright idea folks

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Response to MadHound (Reply #9)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 09:35 PM

18. I know....

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 07:24 AM

10. Science Bad. That is the message of DU today

Science Bad.

WTF are you a bunch of druids?

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 08:38 AM

11. Until there is an area lightning stike.

Many devices that are powered by 200mv cannot take a power surge in the voltage and amp range that is found in a ground strike, or even a small subset of it.

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Response to TheBlackAdder (Reply #11)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 02:42 PM

13. There goes the SE as a tree source, then.

Esp Fla. lightening capital of the country , I do believe.

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Response to TheBlackAdder (Reply #11)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 02:51 PM

15. leaves can be used as a surge protector

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 08:46 AM

12. Let the force be with you. n/t

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Response to Whovian (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 02:48 PM

14. Voltage is irelevant

 

It's the current that matters and is needed to do work.

In the article is does specify the sensor used 10 nW, which puts the current output at ~10 nA. Interesting but not enough power to do anything useful.

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