|Prototype of tree whose leaves generate electricity
Image credit: Christopher Gannon
|AeroLeaf are commerically available artificial trees that can harness energy from the wind
Photo credit: IISD.
When inquired over email regarding using actual trees to harness energy rather than artificial ones, Dr. McCloskey was quite positive and strongly believes in conserving trees and fitting them with devices that could harness energy for us rather than building artificial and aesthetic ones. In fact, his previous grant proposals included this concept but were rejected. Dr. Henderson, co-author of the study, adds that funding is a highly subjective process and he cannot really decipher why a study with the same basic science would be treated differently at different times. Something for funding agencies to look into!
But how did professors in biophysics work on project of harnessing wind energy? Dr. Henderson says that he does not recognize disciplinary boundaries but thinks of himself as an old school scientist, who is a problem solver and not a micromanager.
The researchers are now eager to work on a new method with a radically different piezo electric material that can deliver better efficiency to the extent of amplifying their current outputs by 100,000 fold and which will enable them to make a practical device. Hopefully, this device will be fitted on normal trees that will not only clean the air for us but also generate electricity. Probably then, people would think twice before cutting a tree!
McCloskey, M., Mosher, C., & Henderson, E. (2017). Wind Energy Conversion by Plant-Inspired Designs PLOS ONE, 12 (1) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0170022