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Researchers Transformed Bean Plant into a Battery

Plants can now act as batteries, yes it’s not a joke and was proven when researchers at Linköping University's Laboratory of Organic Electronics have shown that by watering bean plants (Phaseolus vulgaris) with a solution containing conjugated oligomers, the roots of the plant become electrically conducting and may store energy this discovery was published in the scientific journal Materials Horizons.

Abin Joseph
Plants Roots Can Be Used As Batteries
Plants Roots Can Be Used As Batteries

Plants can now act as batteries, yes it’s not a joke and was proven when researchers at Linköping University's Laboratory of Organic Electronics have shown that by watering bean plants (Phaseolus vulgaris) with a solution containing conjugated oligomers, the roots of the plant become electrically conducting and may store energy this discovery was published in the scientific journal Materials Horizons. 

Many of us who were fortunate enough to be educated might have witnessed potatoes and lemons produce electricity in science class. 

However, to imagine that plants can be used to store energy without any side effects is something that is totally new and has opened a totally new avenue of research that we humans can venture into. This recent discovery was based on a research paper published in 2015 by Dr Eleni Stavrinidou, associate professor and principal investigator in the Electronic Plants Group at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics on how circuits can be fabricated in the vascular tissue of roses. 

Later on, she was also able to show how to build transistors to conduct and store electricity in plants by using a conjugated oligomer, ETE-S which was used to polymerise and build them naturally. 

The roots of the bean plant remained electrically conducting for at least four weeks, with a conductivity of roughly 10 S/cm in the roots (Siemens per centimetre). The researchers studied the prospect of storing energy in the roots and constructed a root-based supercapacitor in which the roots served as electrodes during charging and discharging. 

Regarding the success of this experiment, Dr Stavrinidou told the reporters “We have previously worked with plants cuttings, which were able to take up and organise conducting polymers or oligomers. However, the plant cuttings can survive for only a few days, and the plant is not growing anymore. In this new study, we use intact plants, a common bean plant grown from seed, and we show that the plants become electrically conducting when they are watered with a solution that contains oligomers” 

She also added that supercapacitors based on conducting polymers and cellulose are an eco-friendly alternative for energy storage that is both cheap and scalable. 

These root-based supercapacitors performed effectively and could store 100 times more energy than prior tests with plant-based supercapacitors that utilised the plant stem. Because the bean plants in the studies continued to survive and grow, and only developed a more complex root system after being used as a battery unit. 

New Discoveries especially in fields like these which will help us decrease our carbon footprint in the world as a race are always something that should be welcomed with open arms and lauded as a big contribution to mankind as a whole. 

Who knows maybe through this research we might end up driving space ships with big “Living” trees as clean fuel providers instead of toxic gas-producing liquids in the future. 

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