In the pursuit of taking better care of the planet, scientists have been trying to find the best renewable source of energy for the past two or three decades. Wind turbines, solar panels and even liquidising the air we breathe have all been researched and developed to accomplish this, with varying degrees of success and longevity.
Possibly the next big trend in renewable energy, recent experiments have shown that the wasted energy in the roots of plants could become a source for our energy needs.
More specifically, bacteria feed on the wasted energy plants transport to their roots, which gives off spare electrons, hydrogen ions and carbon dioxide which can be harnessed. This process by bacteria is known as rhizodeposition.
Though the power generated from plant roots is roughly only 0.44 watts (to put into perspective, the wattage from wood burning is around 0.7 watts,) which is nowhere near enough power to sustain anything significant, the Dutch scientists working on this development hope to bring up that figure to around 3 watts in the future.
But how would extracting energy from plants fit under the remit of being genuinely useful and practical in the home?
Well there have been talks of cultivating green walls and/or roofs which can be hooked up to a house’s boiler or fuse box, which would provide a subsidiary energy supply – helping the home owner to save money on energy bills in the process. But this concept is a long way off if a greater yield of energy can’t be extracted.
Skeptics of the idea believe that extracting so much energy out of plants would have a negative effect on that plant’s physiological stability. Its respiratory system, gene mapping and hormone system could be greatly unbalanced due to the extra strain on the plant.
However, others believe that this strain on the plant would cause stronger, more durable plants to develop, which would allow greater extraction of energy.
As aforementioned, results/breakthroughs in this area are few and far between. A team of scientists in 2008 managed to gain an output of nearly 300 watts per hectare in a rice paddy field. But one problem that persisted was the production of methane in paddy fields. Water stops the process of methane being produced but so does the ability to harness any energy.
This development though is clearly a step in the right direction for finding renewable sources of energy. How big of a step has yet to be seen.
Click here to learn more about the benefits of plants.
How do you feel about plants being used as a renewable source of energy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.