Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Scientists design electricity generator that mimics trees.
A prototype biomimetic tree has been built that generates electricity when wind blows through its artificial leaves. The researchers think such technology may help people charge household appliances without the need for large wind turbines. In a paper published this month in the peer-reviewed academic journal PLOS ONE, the ISU research team delves into the world of biomimetics, or the use of artificial means to mimic natural processes. The concept has inspired new ways of approaching fields as varied as computer science, manufacturing and nanotechnology. Iowa State University scientists have built a device that mimics the branches and leaves of a cottonwood tree and generates electricity when its artificial leaves sway in the wind. Small strips of specialized plastic inside the leaf stalks release an electrical charge when bent by moving air. These processes are known as piezoelectric effects and the cottonwood leaves were modeled because their flattened leaf stalks compel blades to oscillate in a regular pattern that optimizes energy generation by flexible piezoelectric strips.