I was always passionate about contributing or doing something for the environment and the thousands of species of animals. To address the environmental concerns was my goal that motivated and inspired me to move forward with this idea. Our home is getting damaged and hurt every second, but there are also countless people who are trying to prevent that from happening and I want to be one of them to save our planet.
What it does
This idea could derive electricity from plant life and trees which could be a major new renewable energy source for humankind. Instead of cutting down the abundance of trees we have today, using them for our benefit without affecting them or their growth would actually be progress for us in the world of science. Given the abundance of trees, the electricity from the trees and plants would be more affordable than the current other renewable energy sources we today. I believe that this idea would also promote the importance of trees among people as now they don't only provide us with oxygen and paper, but also electricity.
How we built it
This is how it works. This innovation is heavily dependent on the concept of organic matter. Organic matter refers to the large source of carbon-based compounds that come from the remains of plants, animals, and their waste products in the environment. Plants excrete organic matter into the soil, which is then broken down by bacteria. During this breakdown process, electrons are being released as a waste product of the bacteria living around plant roots. It is possible to harvest those electrons using inert electrodes to turn them into electricity, without affecting the plant’s growth. Precious metals, mercury, and carbon are typically used as inert electrodes. For example, zinc could be the anode and copper could be the cathode. These two materials would be connected with wires to run the current of electricity, and that would make up the microbial fuel cell part. Next, the energy harvester would take that energy and convert it into electricity suitable for use. An example of an energy harvester that could be used would be the Microgen energy harvesting converter. The boost converter connected underneath the energy harvester would be used to “step up” the voltage of the input current to its output current. A boost converter is a DC to DC (which is a voltage source) converter with an output voltage greater than the source voltage. This is a very important part of the design as the increase in voltage can allow an object that requires more power to be used. For the boost converter to work, though, an energy storage element needs to be directly connected. In this case, that is the supercapacitor. A supercapacitor is similar to a battery except it is faster when transferring the current to an external source like a low-power sensor. Not only that, but they charge and store energy at a faster rate than batteries and have a longer lifespan.
Challenges we ran into
I ran into challenges in how I was going to convert the energy into electricity suitable for use and determine whether the electricity derived would be enough to run something. Also I had some small obstacles in making sure the experiment had no flaws and finding the right inert electrodes out of all the metals.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Due to my extensive research and successful experiment, I am proud that I have brought a new idea to the world which could be a breakthrough innovation in renewable energy for the future. More than that though, I was proud that I attempted to at least contribute to helping the environment in some way. To measure the impact of this idea if Plantara were to be used throughout the world, then around 3 trillion trees could produce approximately 75 billion kWh of electricity per day, which could cover the energy consumption of about 1.2 billion people. This would be a major step toward the era of cleaner energy and advanced technologies. To make this more scalable, if a country like Russia, which contains about 21% of the entire world's trees with about 642 billion, were to use this technology on as many trees as possible it could cover about 5% of the entire world's energy needs.
What we learned
I learned a lot about the field of renewable energy and the different growing environmental concerns in the world. Looking through different articles and websites, I also learned about how we also have tons of people, whether that be scientists, workers, or volunteers, making a difference.
What's next for Plantara
I would love to take this idea to the next level and work with other companies in the field to work on this technology and get it to the world as fast as possible.