Plants with integrated electronics, e-Plants, have been in development for years but, up until recently, the devices and circuits have been manufactured in localized regions of the planet due to limited distribution of the organic electronic material.
Researchers at Linköping University in Sweden have come up with a material that turns a rose into an energy storage device that has the same order of magnitude as a supercapacitor. The material polymerizes inside the rose without any external trigger. The fluid that flows inside the rose creates long, conducting threads, not only in the stem but through the plant, out into the leaves and petals.
“We have been able to charge the rose repeatedly, for hundreds of times without any loss on the performance of the device,” says Eleni Stavrinidou, assistant professor at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics at Linköping University. “The levels of energy storage we have achieved are of the same order of magnitude as those in supercapacitors. The plant can, without any form of optimization of the system, potentially power our ion pump, for example, and various types of sensors.”
While the research is just in the beginning stages, this method could lead to the development of autonomous energy systems, the possibility of harvesting energy from plants to power sensors and switches or possibly creating fuel cells inside plants.
“A few years ago, we demonstrated that it is possible to create electronic plants, 'power plants,' but we have now shown that the research has practical applications,” says Professor Magnus Berggren, head of the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, Linköping University. “We have not only shown that energy storage is possible, but also that we can deliver systems with excellent performance.”