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Scientists make astonishing discovery about a potential grid system found in Earth's plants: 'Our eureka moment'

"We could exactly pinpoint how this is related."

"We could exactly pinpoint how this is related."

Photo Credit: iStock

A recent study has explored the potential for plants as a source of renewable energy and how that process is linked to their circadian rhythms (an organism's changes during a 24-hour cycle), as reported by Interesting Engineering.

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur have been studying the effects using electrodes attached to both water hyacinths and lucky bamboo as subjects. 

"Our eureka moment was when our first experiments showed it is possible to produce electricity in a cyclic rhythm and the precise linkage between this and the plant's inherent daily rhythm," Suman Chakraborty, one of the team's researchers, stated, per Interesting Engineering. "We could exactly pinpoint how this is related to water transpiration and the ions the plant carries via the ascent of sap."

They examined a plant's electrical rhythm, "articulating it in terms of voltages and currents" and gauged the power output from them using sustainable methods without impacts on the environment or ecosystem, the article continued. 

This could mean we have an all-natural power grid system right under our feet. The scale of the output might be unknown. But it could at least bolster our overall renewable energy output, which expanded by 510 gigawatts globally in 2023, and it could assist in weaning ourselves off of dirty fuels

Adding plants as a new energy resource could help reduce the overall costs for renewable power, as well. Plus, since they help remove climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we get a two-in-one bonus.

This isn't the first time plants have inspired researchers to explore the raw energy potential in nature. Another team of researchers created literal "power plants" by using small leaf-shaped generators that draw energy from wind and rain.

Another company called Plant-e has been developing technology that's more closely tied to the daily activities of plants. As they produce organic material through photosynthesis, only some is used for growth. The remaining portion is released into the soil. As that degrades, electrons are released and can be harnessed to power small sensors and lighting. 

In 2013, researchers at the University of Georgia's Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center explored the energy storage prowess of plants and how that could translate into improved solar power technology

Said a UGA article: "Plants are the undisputed champions of solar power. After billions of years of evolution, most of them operate at nearly 100 percent quantum efficiency, meaning that for every photon of sunlight a plant captures, it produces an equal number of electrons."

The usefulness of plants associated with solar power doesn't end there. Agrivoltaic farming, which is the process of sharing farmland with solar panel installations, offers even more opportunities. 

Plants and farm animals can benefit from the shade underneath solar panels during hot summer months, while plants can help cool their surrounding environment through transpiration and expelling evaporated water. This, in turn, helps the panels function more efficiently. 

Even battery makers have found useful solutions from plants, utilizing extracts that may be able to help increase the lifespan of zinc-based power cells. 

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