Trees could soon be used to generate “green” electricity

In a newly published study researchers discovered that plants can actually generate electricity. A single leaf can generate more than 150 Volts. That’s enough to simultaneously power 100 LED light bulbs.

The interdisciplinary team of roboticists and biologists at IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Pisa, Italy, developed a hybrid Nerium oleander tree with natural and artificial leaves. Together the tree can act as an innovative “green” electrical generator by converting wind into electricity.

Certain leaf structures are capable or converting mechanical forces applied at the leaf surface into electrical energy. More specifically, a leaf is able to gather electric charges on its surface due to a process called contact electrification. These charges are then immediately transmitted into the inner plant tissue. The plant tissue acts similar to a “cable” and transports the generated electricity to other parts of the plant. So, by simply connecting a “plug” to the plant stem, the electricity generated can be harvested and used to power electronic devices.

In the article, researchers additionally describe for the first time how this effect can be used to convert wind into electricity by plants.  The electricity generated increases the more leaves are touched. Consequently, it can be easily up-scaled by exploiting the whole surface of the foliage of a tree or even a forest.