An artificial tree capable of harvesting energy from its environment has been developed by Finnish researchers.
Producing enough power to charge small electronic devices such as smartphones, humidifiers or LED light bulbs, the prototype tree has tiny thin-film organic solar panels as its leaves but is also fitted with minuscule wind and thermal energy converters.
The research team from Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre says the prototype was built using available mass-produced technology.
The trees can be used indoors as well as outdoors, possibly opening new avenues for energy generation if complex energy-harvesting forests are ever created.
The 'leaves' of the tree are flexible, patterned solar panels made using a technique developed by VTT on a printing process. The leaves form an electronic system complete with wiring that conduct energy into a converter that feeds electricity to devices such as mobile phones or sensors analysing the environment.
The tree’s 3D-printed trunk and branches have been made using wood-based biomaterials.