Can you imagine a forest giving off the same amount of energy as a power plant? Designer Ermi van Oers can. The Dutch entrepreneur and her team have created a lamp called Living Light that can harness energy from a living plant. As she continues to develop this new lighting system, her long-term goal is to power cities with green energy harnessed by plants.
So, how does this magic lamp work? The science behind this project stems from the photosynthetic process which allows plants to grow and thrive. Plants essentially generate protons and electrons which can create electricity. When the plant breaks down bacteria to develop the energy, the microbial fuel cell captures the electors in an anode compartment which transfers the electrons through a wire. Essentially, it's a form of solar energy on a very natural level. The plant, encased in a glass tube, lights up when someone touches it.
The lamp has a lot to offer by tapping back into nature. Living Light was built to be an entirely self-sufficient closed loop power source that doesn’t need electric sockets. As an off-grid light source, the lamp has the potential to help millions of people around the world who do not have reliable or environmentally safe sources of energy.
This bright idea was made possible through van Oers’ collaboration with Plant-e, a Dutch company that works on products that can harness electricity from living plants. The team is working on applying systems that can operate on a large scale. Right now the technology works with living plants that receive water.
The inspiration for Living Light began with van Oers’ desire to bring together nature and technology in a way that helped people. According to TEDxAmsterdam, van Oers believes, “Nature is full of smart solutions. I see my target as a designer to inspire people with the potential power within natural processes. I want to show the beautiful, poetic side of these living systems when they take their place in our everyday lives.”
The designer hopes to tap into the massive potential of this technology and not only light streetlights and parks but also eventually turn forests and rice fields into “power plants” which can offer natural energy. She also sees a future where cities can swap traditional electric grids with microbial energy systems.
As with many new technologies, this one’s not perfect yet. The current design for the Living Light lamp can only produce about half an hour’s worth of light after the plant can “recharge” for a day. Still, van Oer’s team is continually improving the system and already applying microbial energy to light a public park in Rotterdam.
The future looks bright for this entrepreneur who told Dezeen, "I hope we come to a point where every plant pot is provided with this technology, and we don't know any better than that plants are part of our energy system. Nature will get a higher economical value and we will start making more green places so that biodiversity can flourish, while lowering greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.” Living Lamps will be available on the market starting in 2018.