It sounds bizarre, gaining electricity from living plants. Yet is it exactly what David Strik and Marjolein Helder are researching at the moment at Wageningen University.
To not lose any of the attained knowledge, they have set up their own business, focusing on electricity from plants: Plant-e.
Plants carry out photosynthesis, which is well-known. Under the influence of sunlight, water and carbon dioxide they make organic compounds. Partly, these organic compounds are used for the plant to grow, the remainder is excreted through the roots. Certain bacteria, that naturally live near the plant root, can break down these organic compounds. Electrons are freed, that are passed through to an electrode via the bacteria. Harvest electrons, produce electricity!
Currently it is possible to generate 0,2 watts per square meter of grass. This volume, to give you an idea, is enough to keep a clock running. Potentially it is possible to generate 3 Watt per square meter. Ultimately the ambition of the researchers is for a large proportion of the electricity household consumption to be taken over by plants. The sunflowers in your garden will make your washing machine run!
The founder of the company, David and Marjolein, have both graduated in environmental technology at Wageningen University. David has since then done a PhD, meaning that you do research for a couple of years and write a number of scientific articles about your research. Marjolein has also done a PhD and is now working full time as CEO of Plant-e.
The short-term ambition: make green rooftops that create enough energy to supply the building below it.
For more information, check out www.plant-e.com