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Did You Know That You Can Charge Your Phone With Plant Energy?

The transition from fossil fuels to cleaner and renewable energies is essential to face the current energy crisis. In search of alternatives, new devices allow us to generate electricity from plants.

Electricity plug with a plant coming out of it

Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Camisay

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Leer en español: Así podrás cargar tu celular con energía de las plantas

From the most basic to the most complex, many of the activities we do every day require electricity. Working, studying, listening to music, charging the cell phone, doing housework or even watching television are supported by the availability of this resource. Therefore, more than a convenience, electricity has become an essential service that conditions the contemporary way of life as we know it.

Renewable energies: a necessary transition

According to the United Nations (UN), it is estimated that 90% of the world's population has access to electricity. However, as of today, 733 million people do not have this benefit and at the present rate of progress, a large part of them will continue in the same conditions in subsequent years.

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis, coupled with the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, have caused ongoing disruptions to funding allocations and supply chains to control food and fuel prices. Consequently, progress in electricity coverage has slowed down, affecting the quality of life and development of lagging societies.

Currently, fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, constitute 80% of the world's primary energy demand, according to the UN. The high consumption of these energy resources, both to supply homes but mainly to industries, has led to large emissions of greenhouse gases and, in particular, around two-thirds of global CO2 emissions.

Within this context, the UN warns that the supply of electricity based on fossil fuels is a growing problem for climate change. So much so that if the proportion of use of these raw materials is maintained and energy demand doubles by 2050 as projected, carbon emissions would be well above the limits set internationally to avoid an average increase of more than 2°C. Certainly, a temperature increase of this magnitude would be totally disastrous for the ecosystems and living beings that inhabit the planet.

Also read: New Paradigm, New Challenges: How Do We Solve Plastic Pollution?

The need for new possibilities to reduce toxic gas emissions does not entail immediately excluding the use of fossil fuels, but it does require a significant change in the direction of the energy system towards cleaner, more accessible and sustainable models.

In this regard, renewable energy sources offer the opportunity to use resources that are abundant in our environment and that are naturally renewed, to generate electricity at a lower cost or zero emissions of pollutants. Among the green alternatives proposed, one of the promising projects suggests producing energy from plants.

Plants that produce electricity

Have you ever imagined charging your cell phone with a plant?

It may seem surreal, but there are several lines of research and companies that support this new model as a solution to climate change and energy difficulties through the use of plants and green spaces.

The essence of this technology lies in the ability to extract part of the energy that plants generate by capturing light rays, without modifying their biology or causing any damage. To do this, they take advantage of the substances that the plants themselves release naturally through their roots and pass to the ground. Through a chemical process, microorganisms found in the soil decompose organic waste of plant origin and release charged particles that, traveling through microcells, generate electricity.

Any plant can be used to obtain bioelectricity, since the essential requirement is the process of photosynthesis. Despite this, the combination of certain plant species and soil substrates helps not only to keep the plants healthy, but also enables an adequate production of organic waste and greater microbial activity.

Based on these principles, a Peruvian company called Alinti, led by its CEO and founder, Hernán Asto, designs portable devices that work with this hybrid technology. In their most modern format, these devices operate as biochargers powered by plant energy and powered by solar energy. In addition to having an ecological lamp, these chargers also allow you to connect electronic devices that do not require as much energy as cell phones, music players and watches.

We are talking, then, of a hybrid technology that is in the process of experimentation and has incredible potential to take advantage of the biodiversity that characterizes the planet. Far from being the definitive solution, this new model joins other projects on the path towards renewable energies that guarantee clean, inclusive, sustainable and affordable electricity.