Artificial tree harvests solar energy to charge mobile and other devices

February 18, 2015 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Today, we think of solar energy in terms of massive areas of land covered in panels, or for domestic use as panels on a roof. There is also a strong trend in making flexible solar panels that can be shaped into more aesthetic designs, or placed onto surfaces such as walls.

With a new idea that should please interior decorators, VTT has developed a prototype of a tree that harvests solar energy from its surroundings — whether indoors or outdoors — stores it and turns it into electricity to power small devices such as mobile phones, humidifiers, thermometers and LED light bulbs. The technology can also be used to harvest kinetic energy from the environment.

The "leaves" of the tree are flexible, patterned solar panels made using a technique developed by VTT on a printing process. The leaves form an electronic system complete with wiring that conduct energy into a converter that feeds electricity to devices such as mobile phones or sensors analysing the environment.

The tree trunk is made with 3D technology by exploiting wood-based biomaterials VTT has developed.

The more solar panels there are in a tree, the more energy it can harvest.