About This Project
I am working off of the tested and proven concept that electricity can be generated from living plants through the breakdown of organic matter. My project applies this technique to the practice of vertical farming. The objective is to have the plants produce enough organic matter that will be broken down to generate electricity, the electricity powers the pumps that feed water to the plants in a continuous cycle. This would allow farms to consume less electricity and become more self-sufficient.
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What is the context of this research?
One of the newest methods of generating electricity is through plants. In my design, the plants are placed horizontally in PVC pipe and the roots are constantly sprayed with nutrient rich water. Excess organic matter that the plants produce will be excreted through the roots and will flow into a large collection bin with the water. There, microbes will break down the organic matter creating electrons and protons, the electrons will be harvested by an anode and used for power, the electrons then exit the cathode. The electrodes will be separated by a proton exchange membrane (PEM) which allows the protons to filter through it. The protons and electrons recombine to create hydrogen atoms and then react with the oxygen in the air to form water.
What is the significance of this project?
Agriculture accounts for a substantial portion of the negative impacts that we impose on our planet. If we are able to produce electricity from vertically farmed plants, less electricity from environmentally hazardous power plants would be used to power farms, less fertilizer would seep into lakes and rivers causing eutrophication, and we could protect soil from soil erosion. All of this can drastically reduce our impact on the world's eco-systems. In third-world countries with limited amounts of power and nutrient-rich soil, this design would allow farmers to produce many different types of crops at a relatively lower cost with a low environmental impact.
What are the goals of the project?
With the electricity generated, I hope to power an LED light. This wouldn't hold much practical use right away, but instead signifies a proof-of-concept. I first need to construct the vertical farm and have the plants grow to a size that allows them to produce enough organic matter to constantly provide energy. After the plants have grown to this size, I will install the proton exchange membrane and the electrodes and connect everything to an LED light to test for any electricity being generated. If the experiment produces any positive results, I would then like to take it to Google Science Fair 2018 to give it a bigger platform and attention from other researchers.
The plant basics will include all of the smaller parts of the project that directly impact plant growth. This includes the plants seeds, rockwool to hold the plant seeds, lava rocks to prevent algae growth, and net cups to contain everything. This also includes the distribution tube that will continuously spray the plant roots with nutrient rich water.
The majority of the money is designated for a proton exchange membrane. A non-conductive membrane is needed to separate the bacteria and nutrients from the electrons that would flow from the cathode, without this membrane the electrons wouldn't transfer to the hydrogen nuclei which then react with the oxygen in the air to create water.
The microbes are from NPK Industries, I will be purchasing the Growth Stage formula which includes actinobacteria to aid in the breakdown of organic matter, this step is crucial in providing the electrons that will be harvested for power.
Jun 13, 2017
Jul 04, 2017
Begin the construction of the vertical farm
Aug 07, 2017
When I expect plants to have appropriate size to produce large enough amounts of organic matter to generate electricity
Aug 25, 2017
Finnish with any necessary modifications to the farm
Aug 31, 2017
Collect and post final results
Meet the Team
I am currently a high school student who plans on pursuing a career in engineering at the University of Waterloo. Our current practices and technologies for producing many goods have extremely harmful impacts on the planet. The consumption of these goods is not likely to go down; and so companies and research institutions need to develop eco-friendly processes to produce these goods. I have always been extremely interested in learning about the strides that are made every day by these researchers to create efficient ways of producing and consuming energy and biodegradable products. I now want to be a part of this increasing global effort to help eliminate our stress on the world's eco-systems.
Nothing posted yet.
This is the video created by Plant-e explaining how they harvest electricity from living plants, I plan on using their technique and applying it to the practice of vertical farming.
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