Scientists at Cambridge University have designed prototypes that demonstrate how biological fuel cells can harness energy from plants.
Photosynthesis occurs when plants convert carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into organic compounds using energy from sunlight. Plants use these organic compounds – carbohydrates, proteins and lipids – to grow.
When the moss photosynthesises it releases some of these organic compounds into the soil which contains symbiotic bacteria. The bacteria break down the compounds, which they need to survive, liberating by-products that include electrons.
While, still at early stages, Bio-photo-voltaics (BPV), has the potential to power small devices such as digital clocks.
Low cost BPV devices may become competitive alternatives to conventional renewable technologies such as bio-fuels in the next ten years.
The appeal of BPV lies in its ability to harness a natural process that takes place all around us.