Programming + Design

Electricity directly from trees PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brett Brewer   
Saturday, 19 May 2007

I have been speculating for years about alternative methods for generating electricity. Recently I was thinking about how plants are able to efficiently store solar energy as sugar and wondered if it might be possible to coax them into generating free electrons that could be siphoned off directly as an electrical current. I wondered if there might be some way to splice some genes from an electric eel or some other bioelectric organism and get a tree to produce a similar electrical field. Of course, this seems somewhat impossible since they biological systems in a tree are nothing like those in an eel. But after a bit of searching I came across this article which describes a method of extracting current directly from a tree using a method that most elementary school science fair participants will probably be familiar with from their "potato battery" experiments. Apparently Gordon Wadle, an inventor from Thompson, IL. was thinking about how lightning eminates from the ground, often near large trees. He basically did a variation of the "potato battery" experiment with a tree instead of a potato and it worked.

"Simply drive an aluminum roofing nail through the bark and into the wood of a tree -- any tree -- approximately one half inch; drive a copper water pipe six or seven inches into the ground, then get a standard off-the-shelf digital volt meter and attach one probe to the pipe, the other to the nail and you'll get a reading of anywhere from 0.8 to 1.2 volts of DC power," he said.

And apparently, no matter how many spikes you put into a tree, they all produce the same amount of energy, so a single tree is probably capable of putting out much more energy than the simple experiment suggests. Talk about a sure-fire way to get people to plant more trees! Anyway, the inventor and a company called MagCap Engineering, LLC. have applied for a patent, so hopefully we will hear some more about this in the near future. In the meantime, I think I'll see how much electricity the oak tree in my back yard is producing. 

Last Updated ( Saturday, 19 May 2007 )
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