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Plugging in to plant roots

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1 Author(s)

Cast-off electrons in a plant's roots can provide electricity, a Dutch team reports. Now, through a spin-off company, it hopes to grow grassy generators on rooftops and promote decentralized electrical production in wetlands in developing countries. Plants exude a variety of waste products that microbes consume, such as glucose, acetate, butyrate, and propionate. The underground interaction leaves spare electrons in the surrounding soil and water, which researchers-led by Bert Hamelers at Wageningen University, in the Netherlands- began tapping in experiments in 2007. They were already working on using so-called microbial fuel cells (MFCs) to treat wastewater when they realized that plant roots improved the performance of the fuel cells.

Published in:

Spectrum, IEEE  (Volume:50 ,  Issue: 2 )

Date of Publication:

Feb. 2013

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