A team of researchers, biochemists and plant scientists from the University of Cambridge have created a prototype of a radio that can run on moss.
Figuring out how to power up an FM radio with a network of plants, the process works via what they refer to as Biophotovoltaics, which is a budding biophilic technology where electrons and protons that are generated by plants in photosynthesis are collected and converted into electrical currents. The Moss FM radio contains 10 photo microbial fuel cells.
Wanting to try out a way to power up a home device, but worried about the environment due to the removal of outdoor moss, the researchers tried growing plants indoors without soil. This proved more difficult than just getting a moss garden to spread, but the correct variety had to be chosen in order for it to thrive enough to be able to successfully power up the unit.
After examining various species to find which ones would be ideal, they found that hydroponically grown mosses proved to be more durable than ones that were grown outdoors. Looking to a type of moss that is grown indoors, Physcomitrella p., the researchers found that they could grow the substance onto different sufaces, and it was capable of providing an electrical current.
This versatility and application led them to further investigate the potential with moss, specifically because of its efficiency with electricity collection, due to the streamlined photosynthetic process typical of the plants.
Still at a conceptual design, the radio can be turned on for several minutes using only the battery that received the photosynthetic charge.
Other devices can also be charged by the moss groupings, and the researchers are aiming for future commercial applications.
The technology does has some promising aspects. In fact, according to the scientists, currently the capabilities of obtaining power collection from the mosses’ electrons is only around 0.1%, so there is a vast potential for amping up the power supply once the technology is advanced.
They pointed out that if just 25% of London inhabitants, approximately 2.7 million, powered up their phones every other day for just 2 hours with this type of charging station, it would reserve enough electricity to provide a smaller town with power for about a year.
All images are from Fabienne Felder.
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