In January 2015, the Finnish VTT Technical Centre introduced decorative organic photovoltaic cells (OPV), which can be inexpensively mass-produced, and which can easily be incorporated into the design of any home. These cells are capable of capturing energy from interior lighting and generate enough power to run small devices and sensors.
Since the OPVs they introduced were shaped like leaves, it is only logical that VTT has now come up with a tree like structure to hold them. And this energy-harvesting tree can generate electricity from more than just the sun.
VTT has gone a step further in that the OPV leaves they designed are actually a multi-source energy harvesting system, meaning that they are capable of converting not just light into usable electricity, but also temperature differences and vibrations caused by wind. This was achieved by fitting each leaf with a multi-power convertor, which makes it possible for energy from all these various sources to be converted into electricity.
The energy-harvesting tree consists of a 3D-printed body made of wood-based biomaterials. It’s not the prettiest fake tree you can buy, but it is very useful. According to VTT, these trees can be placed either indoors or outside, and are infinitely replicable, due to the individual convertors and being mass-produced by a 3D printer. This manufacture process also makes them infinitely scalable.
The present version of the energy-harvesting tree can only produce sufficient energy to power a mobile phone. However, the company already envisions “forests” of such trees providing energy on a much wider and larger scale.
It’s definitely nice to see solar tech being brought closer to the end consumer by making it easier to incorporate it into homes, as well as cheaper and prettier. I could easily envision one of these energy-harvesting trees in my living room, more so if the design was further perfected.