Meet our daily needs in a clean and environmentally-friendly way.
Designers and scientists at the University of Cambridge have been collaborating on a project that demonstrates a potential future application of Biophotovoltaic (BPV) technology. Dubbed the Moss Table, the concept furniture piece was exhibited at this year’s Salone Satellite – a parallel exhibition of young designers that took place during the Milan Design Week last month. The idea behind the table is that energy generated from the moss during the day could be stored in a battery and later used to power the adjoining lamp in the evening. The research is led by Dr. James Moultrie of Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing, who hopes to further develop the application for new BPV technologies.
The BPV technology is able to generate electricity by tapping into the photosynthesis of living organisms such as cyanobacteria, moss, algae and vascular plants. As the name suggests, the Moss Table incorporates an array of BPV devices which generate electricity from a cluster of moss plants. While the present amount of energy generated by the table is not enough to power the featured table-lamp, it is the envisioned goal of the project. However, the research group was able to illustrate how the same BPV technology is able to power small devices like a digital clock, by applying some of the units that operate inside the Moss Table.
How does it work?
During the process of photosynthesis, the moss releases organic compounds into the soil, which contains bacteria. The bacteria then break down these organic compounds, which they need to survive, liberating a bi-product that includes electrons. These electrons are captured by conductive fibers inside the Moss Table and put to use. The technology therefore harnesses energy which would otherwise be wasted.
At present the moss application can generate about 50 milliwatts per square meter (10.8 sq ft) and scientists anticipate that future devices may be able to generate up to 3 watts per square meter. With the development of low-energy consumption laptops that could operate at as little as 1 watt (such as the XO-1 by Quanta Computer), it is anticipated that the future Moss Table could power a laptop for over 14 hours. Down the road, the BPV technology could also give rise to a range of self-sustaining organic-synthetic hybrid objects that would meet our daily needs in a clean and environmentally-friendly way.
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