Plants already give us oxygen to breathe, but what if they could give us electricity, too? This Spanish start-up has made a bio-battery that generates electricity from soil microbes and is using plants to change the way we think of renewable energy. (1)
Bio Battery Disrupting Green Energy Sector
In 2016, Google named Bioo (bee-oh) the most disruptive start-up of the year. The Spanish company created a bio battery that uses microbes in the soil that feed on decaying plant matter to generate enough electricity to turn on a light and power small appliances. (2)
This is the most sustainable form of energy yet, as these microbes never stop working, never run out, and the product requires none of the potentially harmful chemicals and materials that traditional solar panels require. (2)
How the Bio Battery Works
First, the battery is planted into the ground. When that ground is then watered or rained on, the nutrients and microbes in the soil leach into the battery. Their feeding activity inside the battery creates protons and electrons. (2)
Holes in the battery allow for oxygen to flow through which then creates electricity. These batteries can generate enough power to turn on a light, operate a small appliance, and even turn on a small screen. (2)
Bioo is currently working on scaling up its technology so that it will be able to power an entire house. (1)
The Benefits of the Bio Battery
There are several reasons why these batteries are superior to other forms of sustainable power generation (2):
- 100% renewable – they don’t require any toxic materials or rare Earth minerals that some PV solar panels do.
- No back-up storage batteries required – soil microbes never stop working and so never stop generating electricity.
- Consistent power – related to the previous point, when a windless or cloudy day prevents wind or solar power from working, soil microbes just keep going.
- Save water – the bio battery generates extra water beneath a garden or lawn that is expelled in the soil.
- Bio batteries do not interrupt the natural landscape above ground.
“The technology itself has the potential to be very, very cheap,” founder Pablo Vidarte says. “After all, it just requires graphite and carbon-based substances that are really easy to obtain, are very abundant, and very cheap, as well.” (2)
The Living Installation
Bioo uses potted plants for most of their research because the plants expel the excess energy from their roots. The bio battery in the soil then captures this energy and turns it into power. They showcase this in their Living Installation where plants act as switches that can turn lights, screens, and music on and off. You can even use these plants to extend wifi (3)
The potted plants are perfect for use in a home or retail store, and also for outdoor lighting in parks, gardens, and patios. City planners have taken a particular interest in the technology as a cheaper, more sustainable way to light up streets and park paths. (3)
More Work Ahead
Though Bioo and their bio battery aren’t quite ready yet to power your entire home or business, it is still an exciting innovation to watch out for. You can read more about Bioo and their initiatives on their website.