New device uses waste electricity from plants and communicates via satellite

A device that collects electricity from cultivated fields and sends information about the same crops via low-power satellite signals was created by the Dutch company Plant-e and Lacuna Space. It is a project carried out as part of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES), a project of the European Space Agency.

The device can provide information on soil and air humidity and temperature, important information for farmers to keep crops under control. The electricity needed to operate these devices comes from the fact that plants produce organic matter through photosynthesis.

This process, however, does not use all this organic matter to grow plants: part of it is stored in the soil through the roots. Right under the soil, bacteria break it down and release electrons as a sort of “waste.”

The device is capable of collecting these electrons to assimilate that small level of electrical current in order to function and transmit signals.

There is talk of a “new era in sustainable satellite communications,” as Rob Spurrett, the CEO of the company that created the device, defines it. He suggests that the device itself could be used in those regions of the world that are difficult to reach, where there is not a good supply of electricity and an Internet connection and where it is not possible to use solar energy.

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