Various types of trees and plants have the ability to extract water from their roots, moving it upward to gather nutrients. The key to making this work for energy generation is through the development of a chip, which is a microfluidic pump. The pump can work similarly to a tree, moving water. The chip was made with two plastic slides, which have two small channels. When they filled one channel with water and the other with water and sugar, they found that the chip could mimic the natural hydraulics found in trees, pumping the water from the chip to a tank.
The quest for the perfect alternative energy source continues, as scientists seek to find the most efficient way to power the planet. Plants may be the latest answer. Engineers have found a way to use trees as an inspiration for artificially generating hydraulics for power.
The team was inspired to experiment with water pumping while working on a project that used hydraulics to power robots. When they decided to expand from smaller robots to larger ones, they needed a natural way to pump a great deal of water quickly and realized that trees perform this action on a regular basis.
Stephanie is the author of the children's novels 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, from Simon & Schuster's Aladdin M!x line. A technology enthusiast, she regularly writes for a variety of online outlets about the latest gadgets and software solutions. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Neil.