Tech meets art in a life-like ‘energy tree’ with e-leaves that suck up sunshine and quiver in the breeze to produce solar and wind power. The 16ft solar/wind tree can generate nearly three times the electricity an average family uses in a year and could completely change how we power homes. It works as a giant solar panel and wind turbine, so the stronger the sun and the windier the day, the more power it produces.
Design and engineering students of Brunel University London developed the tree concept and tested the e-leaves prototype for London-based renewable energy start-up, Solar Botanic.
Inspired by nature, its e-leaves are a thin sunlight-activated photovoltaic film, cocooned in protective green layer flexible enough to shimmer in the breeze. The branches, twigs and leafstalks are laced with high-resistance piezoelectric ribbons that harvest kinetic energy as they move, so sunlight, raindrops and wind all create energy.
Electricity would go straight into homes through underground cables. Leftover power can be stored in batteries and sold to the national grid and makers can also fit the recyclable trunk with street lights, or pack it with generators to charge electric cars, mobile phones and even robots.
With brighter sunlight, the tree would be extra efficient for developing countries, where it could help with power cuts triggered by spikes in demand.
Solar Botanic aims to start building its first proper full-scale tree at the end of the year.