Money does not grow on trees but electricity might someday. Scientists have developed a new biomimetic tree that generates power when wind blows through its artificial leaves.
The technology, developed by researchers at Iowa State University, may help people charge appliances without the need for wind turbines. The device mimics the branches and leaves of a cottonwood tree. Small strips of plastic inside the leaf stalks release an electrical charge when bent by air. Such processes are known as piezoelectric effects. Cottonwood leaves were modelled because their flattened leaf stalks compel blades to oscillate in a regular pattern that optimises energy generation by flexible piezoelectric strips.
Michael McCloskey said the technology could spawn a niche market for small and visually unobtrusive machines that turn wind into electricity. “The advantages here are aesthetics and its smaller scale, which may allow off-grid energy harvesting.”
McCloskey said cell phone towers in some urban locations, such as Las Vegas, have been camouflaged as trees, complete with leaves that serve only to improve the tower’s aesthetic appeal. Tapping energy from those leaves would increase their functionality, he said. Christian Fischer Womens JerseyShare This