Plant-based energy could be the future thanks to a research project in Moscow called Green Spark. A large installation featuring hanging ceramic pots that act as ‘batteries’ utilises the natural power of photosynthesis to generate renewable electrical energy. Want to know how?
The research project was devised by Moscow-based designer and architect, Elena Mitro, who works in digital fabrication. Mitro used her extensive background in hydroceramics, and environmentally conscious design to create an installation that uses plants to generate energy. A series of ceramic pots act as ‘batteries’ by utilising the natural power of photosynthesis to generate a type of electrical energy known as plant-microbial fuel cells (PMFCs).
Each ‘battery’ features a modular, plant-filled, hanging ceramic pot. The plants use light energy to consume carbon dioxide and water from the surrounding environment and converts it into organic compounds. This is then released into the soil where symbiotic bacteria occur, breaking down the matter and releasing the electrons to create an electricity conductor. The electricity can be created from the micro-organisms that enter through the matter. One battery can generate up to 0.7 volts, varying with the way each pot is connected – parallel or in a series circuit.
Mitro’s installation features 86 of these plant ‘batteries’ and can generate enough power to charge up to two smartphones at the same time. The aim of the project installation is to test the PMFCs by integrating them into the city and urban infrastructure and showcase to the public how green batteries could create an energy-efficient electrical system for the future.
Mitro designed the batteries to encourage the plants to grow as if they are in their natural environment; the pot is created from porous clay, unglazed except for the base, which covered in waterproof glaze that allows for a better activation of the electrode. The pot has a total of three lugs, two for electrical connection and one for an irrigation tube.
The installation has been used to educate school and university groups as well as just general public who wander by. A key feature of the installation is the idea of interaction, allowing for people to touch and view the batteries in order to encourage them to engage with the concept of green energy.
To see this amazing installation in action, check out the video below.