Look at a patch of moss, and electricity is probably the last thing that comes to mind. But as it turns out, moss is an optimal plant for generating power, as this delightful “Moss FM” radio demonstrates.
When plants convert solar energy into sugars during photosynthesis, they produce electrons at an intermediate stage. Harnessing these can generate a current, as the researchers behind the device have done. Moss is particularly useful because it grows slowly, and that makes collecting the electrons easier.
Fabienne Felder, a Swiss designer who developed the radio with two scientists from the University of Cambridge, calls the moss-plant a “biological solar panel.”
The current model, more technically termed a Photo Microbial Fuel Cell or Photo-MFC, only uses about 0.1% of the plant’s energy, leaving a lot of potential for becoming more efficient (the radio itself runs for less than two minutes at a time).
“Photo-MFCs is an emerging technology and still in its infancy,” Felder says on her Tumblr page. “Although we understand how it works, we can currently harness only a tiny fraction of the electrons produced. Further research is concerned with making microbial fuel cells more efficient.”