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Greenest energy yet! How your home could be powered by plants in 30 years

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Researchers at the University of Georgia have found a novel new way to harvest solar energy for electricity, by stealing the energy from plants. It may sound strange, but if true, your electricity could someday come from your garden.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Researchers have found a new way to make electricity, by using live, growing plants. Publishing in the Journal of Energy and Environmental Science, Ramaraja Ramasamy, assistant professor of Engineering explained, "This approach may one day transform our ability to generate cleaner power from sunlight using plant-based systems."

This means we may one day be able to harvest electricity from plants.

Most of the energy we consume on Earth originates with the sun. Our fossil fuels are produced from prehistoric biomass that collected sunlight, synthesized it into energy, stored that energy in their fibers and leaves, which were then trapped under layers of earth for millions of years where the biomass became coal and oil.

Scientists wanted to see if there was a way they could cut the millions of years part out of the process and harvest energy as it was photosynthesized by the plants.

As the researchers explained, plants use sunlight to split atoms of water into hydrogen and oxygen. This process frees up electrons which are used by the plant to crate the sugars they use for reproduction and growth. Ramasamy says they have found a way to capture those electrons before the plant converts them into sugars.

Those captured electrons can then be sent along a wire as electricity.

Further work will have to be done before you can plug your smartphone into your houseplants, but the technology does hold promise. If it ever becomes practical and mainstream, it may qualify as some of the world's greenest energy, ever.

Ramasamy hopes the technology will someday rival solar panels.

"We have discovered something very promising here, and it is certainly worth exploring further," he said. "The electrical output we see now is modest, but only about 30 years ago, hydrogen fuel cells were in their infancy, and now they can power cars, buses and even buildings."

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