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Tree Power

October 20, 2008

Trees can supply enough electricity to charge a battery.


Harvesting electricity from trees…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scientists have long known that trees can produce a small amount of electricity, kind of like a battery does. But the current was so tiny, no one was able to make much use of it. Now, researchers at MIT and a company called Voltree are developing a wireless sensor network that taps that trickle of energy. Physicist Andreas Mershin is a postdoc at MIT’s Center for Biomedical Engineering. He says the sensors’ batteries are slowly recharged by electricity produced by the tree.

This network of very tiny radio tranceivers and sensors that will sit in the forest and sleep most of the time and then theoretically wake up and report on the forest conditions – the humidity or the air and the temperature of the air.

The U.S. Forest Service plans to test the sensor network to see if can monitor when forest fires start. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.