How would nature do it? Researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland may be discovering the answer, thanks to advancing solar and 3D printing technologies. They have developed some very decorative prototypes of what they are calling “energy harvesting trees”. The tiny leaves generate and store solar energy and can be used to power small appliances and mobile devices. They flourish indoors and outdoors and can also harvest kinectic energy from wind and temperature changes in the surrounding environment.
“Today it can power your mobile, but imagine the impact a whole forest can have tomorrow.”
How do they work?
The tree’s leaves are actually flexible organic solar cells, printed using well established mass-production techniques. Each leaf has a separate power converter, creating a multi converter system that makes it possible to collect energy from a variety of sources like solar, wind and heat temperature. The more solar panels there are in a tree, the more energy it can harvest. The trunks are 3d printed using wood-based biocomposites. They are mass producible and can be infinitely replicated.
“Exciting stuff!” What do you think could be some real life applications for this technology in the future? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.