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Information and technology

Plant-e develops products in which living plants generate electricity. To make this possible, Plant Microbial Fuel Cell (P-MFC) technology is used. This technology was developed at Wageningen University and was patented in 2007. Plant-e is now the patent holder and is continuously working on further research and product development.

How does it work?

A plant produces organic material through photosynthesis. Part of this organic material is used by the plant for its own growth, but not everything is used by the plant. This remaining part is excreted via the roots to the soil. In the soil, around the roots of the plant, bacteria break down the organic material. In this degradation process electrons are released as a waste product. The P-MFC technology ensures that we can use these electrons as electricity.

The P-MFC technology ensures that we can use these electrons as electricity.

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Plant-e Information - infographic

Plant-e technology step by step:

  1. Under the influence of sunlight, plants produce sugars and oxygen from water and CO2; Photosynthesis!
  2. These sugars do not remain in the leaves, but are transported throughout the plant
  3. Some of these sugars are excreted by the roots
  4. Bacteria that naturally surround the roots break down these sugars, releasing electrons and protons.
  5. The electrons are collected in the anode (the minus pole) of our plant battery.
  6. The electrons that flow through the wire can be used as electricity! Thanks to a smart chip, we can increase the voltage and, for example, light up lights!
  7. The electrons continue their journey, to the plus pole, the cathode. Here, they come into contact with oxygen from the air and protons from step 4, and react to form water!

Benefits

Besides the fact that making electricity with living plants can be a nice addition to the current matrix of sustainable electricity production, there are a number of other advantages to our technology and products. Some of these positive points at a glance:

  • It is CO2 negative:
    • Plants consume more CO2 than they emit. Therefore Plant electricity is the only form of electricity which is CO2 negative! That is very positive!
  • It is green:
    • It has been shown that green in the environment, whether this is outside or inside, has a positive influence on people. Moreover, green contributes to a pleasant (indoor) climate.
  • It is sustainable:
    • For all our products we are constantly looking for the most sustainable materials. Plastic that we use is recycled and the materials we use are inert. This means that the materials we place in nature will not dissolve there or affect nature. So our Plant-e systems can, if necessary, be completely taken back and recycled.
  • It makes multiple land use possible:
    • A Plant-e installation does not detract from nature reserves, but adds something. An example of this Multiple use of space: In addition to food production, a rice field will have the added value of (decentralized) electricity production.

Potential

We are working on the development of P-MFC technology. This also means that we continuously investigate new things and that the potential for the technology unfolds during this research. Our green vision also focuses on what we consider possible in the future with this technology and products:

  • Electricity production, for:
    • sensors
      • In remote agricultural areas, sensors can be placed that communicate the status of a crop, the soil and the environment. These sensors can possibly be controlled by electricity generated by the relevant crop. Sensors for and by crops.
    • Applications in remote areas
      • There are still places in this world where kerosene lamps are used for lighting, for example to study. It is precisely in these places that a small LED light can make a big difference. A colleague of us once said that Plant-e electricity was perhaps a small drop in a large ocean for many. For his village (a remote village in Indonesia), however, it would be a completely new ocean.
    • Reduction of methane emissions
      • Methane gas is a strong greenhouse gas. There is reason to further investigate the integration of Plant-e technology in wet nature areas and the methane emissions of these areas. Integration of our technology can reduce methane emissions from rice fields up to 50%, which helps to prevent global warming.
    • Wastewater treatment
      • Part of the waste water can be 'pre-purified' by plants. By integrating Plant-e technology into this chain, electricity can be produced at the same time as the water is purified..