Relying on Good Old Plant Power

We The Pvblic

BANNERPLANTHaving your portable power plant just got easier. In Chile, three engineers developed a charger that extracts energy from plants to charge smartphones and other mobile devices.

E-Kaia, which is Greek for “energy of the Earth”, is the brainchild of Camila Rupcich, Evelyn Aravena and Carolina Guerrero. They developed the prototype back in 2009 when they were engineering students at Duoc UC in Valparaíso and the Andrés Bello National University. After winning the largest National University Entrepreneurship Competition, Jump Chile, in 2013, the group obtained seed capital and now runs their startup.

 

About a third portion of the charger is buried in the soil. The remaining two-thirds remains visible including the USB port side that is connected to the phone. With an output of 5volts and 600 milliamps, this novel invention can charge your smartphone within an hour and a half.

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So how does it work? When sunlight strikes the leaves of a plant, it is converted to chemical energy, forming organic material that will help make it grow. Microorganisms found around the roots of the plant breakdown this organic material and in the process release electrons. Meanwhile, the biocircuit of the charger contains an electrode that captures some of these electrons to generate electricity. The great news is, harvesting these stray electrons do not affect the plant negatively.

Mobile device usage is expected to continue in the coming years. When stuck in a dead battery situation, no need to find sockets because you can always plug onto a tree.

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