Power Plants For The Backyard

The engineering area termed biomimetics has been expanding over the past 15 years. It is usually on a small scale and, so far, has been fairly modest in its objectives. This is all about to change. The engineers are getting more adventurous.

Those of us who have a weakness for poems will be familiar with a couple of lines of Alfred Kilmer of the Fighting 69th who wrote “Trees” in 1914. Presumably looking across the mud at tree stumps ravaged by shell-fire, the last two lines run: 
                                       “Poems are made by fools like me,
                                         But only God can make a tree.”

Now the guys in London  doing wild things in the back rooms of SolarBotanic are making trees and shrubs (1). These are not just large-scale ornaments like large plastic flowers, but are the ultimate green biomimetic technology. What’s so exciting? The Nanoleaves that are decorating the twigs and braches.

They flap happily in the slightest breeze and have little built in piezo-electric generators and so the trees are power plants. But they aren’t just wind harvesting plants, the Nanoleaves convert UV/visible radiation into electricity also, as they are photo-voltaic cells (1,2). But there is more yet. They are infra-red sensitive and can generate yet more electricity from the thermal component of sunlight – yes there is sunlight in London (sometimes).

But there is even more yet, and this is free. They come with different leaf colors with base plants in a variety of sizes. Perfect for a large landscaped garden or town parks.

The company has added in an air filtration membrane that seems to remove carbon dioxide (3). The details here are a little vague, but if the claim is accurate, we have biomimicry plus.

Dogs and birds would be fine with these. What happens if it snows? If the branches can stand the weight, we could be close to a self-lighting Christmas tree.

  1. http://www.solarbotanic.com/
  2. http://news.discovery.com/tech/artificial-trees-111119.html
  3. http://www.solarbotanic.com/air-filter/

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