University of Washington scientists have discovered a new source of electricity: Trees.
In an experiment that will seem familiar to students of the potato, the scientists stuck one electrode into a bigleaf maple, and another in the ground, and saw that the tree generated a tiny stream of electricity -- a few hundred millivolts.
That's not enough electricity to do much ... but run a circuit and get published in the scientific journal Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Transactions on Nanotechnology.
A few hundred millivolts of electricity isn't enough to do much. Or is it? The scientists built a custom boost converter using nanotechnology that stores input voltages of as little as 20 millivolts (20 thousandths of a volt) and produces 1.1 volts -- enough to run low-power sensors that might monitor environmental conditions, help detect forest fires or gauge the health of trees.