VTT's energy-harvesting "tree" generates electricity from multiple sourcesView gallery - 4 images
In January, the VTT Technical Centre of Finland unveiled its decorative, mass-producible organic photovoltaic (OPV) leaves designed to capture energy from interior lighting to power small devices and sensors. Now, the company has followed the logical path and come up with an energy-harvesting tree that generates electricity from a variety of sources.
Solar cells are a simple, solid-state means of producing electricity, but they draw on only one source of energy. VTT has gone one better by taking its OPV leaves and turning them into a multi-source energy harvesting system. This is done by equipping each leaf with its own multi-power convertor that allows each leaf to not only convert light into electricity, but also temperature differences and vibrations, such as those caused by wind.
The leaves are then mounted in a 3D-printed body made of wood-based biomaterials, which looks a bit like a stocky twig from a discount store florist department. However, VTT says that the individual convertors mean that the little energy-harvesting trees, which can be placed indoors or out, are infinitely replicable and, presumably, infinitely scalable. The current version only produces enough energy to power a mobile phone, but the company foresees a day when "forests" of such trees could take on much bigger jobs.
The video below introduces the VTT energy-harvesting tree technology.