Printing trees for energy

VTT, the applied research arm of Finland’s Ministry of Employment and Economy, has 3-D-printed miniature “trees” that turn sunlight, wind and even changes in temperature into useful energy.

The gadgets, resembling hand-sized tree leaves, layer polymers and electrodes to create small photovoltaic cells. The devices also make electricity when they vibrate, which happens when the wind blows or air temperature changes.

The micro-trees also store power… but not a lot. A square meter of the trees can produce a little more than 10 watts of electricity in direct sunlight. Still, the devices could be useful for small tasks, such as charging a cellphone.

The trees’ “trunks” are made of lumber-industry waste and smell like wood. At the end of their three-year life, the trees can be entirely broken down and recycled, also mimicking nature.

TRENDPOST: Portable devices demand portable power; people can’t always take time or trouble to plug in a mobile device and hang around while it refuels. The market is expanding rapidly for power sources that travel with you.

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