Researchers at The Ohio State University are developing this new technology that resembles a tree with no leaves and only a few branches. The team is using a tree design because they discovered that tree-like structures made with electromechanical materials can convert random forces like wind or footsteps on a bridge into strong structural vibrations that can then be converted into electricity.
The researchers don’t imagine groves of tall artificial trees placed everywhere, they actually believe this technology is best suited for small scale applications, requiring little power, where other clean energy sources won’t work. One possible early use could be tiny trees powering bridge and building sensors that monitor the integrity of the structures. Today, these types of sensors rely on batteries or being plugged into the grid.
The researchers point out that there are constant vibrations all around us from nature, like wind and seismic activity, and human movements that these trees could turn into electricity.