LIMA – University researchers in Peru have invented a device aimed at leveraging plants’ potential as a clean and renewable energy source to provide electricity to an impoverished Amazon community.
The “plant lamp,” as the invention is known, is a project by researchers at Lima’s University of Engineering and Technology that generates two hours of light per day through the use of a battery that collects nutrients released into the soil by plants during photosynthesis and converts it into electricity.
The goal of the project “was to offer a source of clean electrical light to people by making use of their surrounding resources,” the head of the project, UTEC professor Elmer Ramirez, told EFE.
The initiative was carried out in Nueva Saposoa, a Shipibo-Conibo indigenous community of 173 inhabitants in the eastern Amazonian region of Ucayali, where 65 percent of the population lacks electricity, according to figures from the INEI statistics agency.
A team made up of seven professors and eight students worked on the “plant lamps” for four months and traveled twice to Nueva Saposoa – once to conduct research and a second time to deliver 10 prototypes of the invention to the community.
Although studies had already been conducted on the existence of plant-based electricity, “we went from theory to application,” Ramirez said.
To make that leap, the Peruvian researchers needed to define the chunk of land necessary to feed the battery inserted inside a plant pot, as well as select a high-efficiency, low-consumption LED lamp.
“When we told (the indigenous population) how the invention worked, they were amazed because they couldn’t believe that all that vegetation that surrounded them could generate electricity,” Marcello Gianino, an engineering student, told EFE.
“It was a moving experience to not only provide them with electricity but also radically change their lives,” he added.
The use of “plant lamps” in Nueva Saposoa provides economic and educational benefits because it allows adults to work longer hours and makes it easier for children to study.