Navigation Links
MIT: Preventing forest fires with tree power
Date:9/22/2008

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--MIT researchers and colleagues are working to find out whether energy from trees can power a network of sensors to prevent spreading forest fires.

What they learn also could raise the possibility of using trees as silent sentinels along the nation's borders to detect potential threats such as smuggled radioactive materials.

The U.S. Forest Service currently predicts and tracks fires with a variety of tools, including remote automated weather stations. But these stations are expensive and sparsely distributed. Additional sensors could save trees by providing better local climate data to be used in fire prediction models and earlier alerts. However, manually recharging or replacing batteries at often very hard-to-reach locations makes this impractical and costly.

The new sensor system seeks to avoid this problem by tapping into trees as a self-sustaining power supply. Each sensor is equipped with an off-the-shelf battery that can be slowly recharged using electricity generated by the tree. A single tree doesn't generate a lot of power, but over time the "trickle charge" adds up, "just like a dripping faucet can fill a bucket over time," said Shuguang Zhang, one of the researchers on the project and the associate director of MIT's Center for Biomedical Engineering (CBE).

The system produces enough electricity to allow the temperature and humidity sensors to wirelessly transmit signals four times a day, or immediately if there's a fire. Each signal hops from one sensor to another, until it reaches an existing weather station that beams the data by satellite to a forestry command center in Boise, Idaho.

Scientists have long known that trees can produce extremely small amounts of electricity. But no one knew exactly how the energy was produced or how to take advantage of the power.

In a recent issue of the Public Library of Science ONE, Zhang and MIT colleagues report the answer. "It's really a fairly simple phenomenon: An imbalance in pH between a tree and the soil it grows in," said Andreas Mershin, a postdoctoral associate at the CBE. The first author of the paper is Christopher J. Love, an MIT senior in chemistry who has been working on the project since his freshman year.

To solve the puzzle of where the voltage comes from, the team had to test a number of theories - many of them exotic. That meant a slew of experiments that showed, among other things, that the electricity was not due to a simple electrochemical redox reaction (the type that powers the 'potato batteries' common in high school science labs, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon_battery). The team also ruled out the source as due to coupling to underground power lines, radio waves or other electromagnetic interference.

Testing of the wireless sensor network, which is being developed by Voltree Power (http://voltreepower.com), is slated to begin in the spring on a 10-acre plot of land provided by the Forest Service.

According to Love, who with Mershin has a financial interest in Voltree, the bioenergy harvester battery charger module and sensors are ready. "We expect that we'll need to instrument four trees per acre," he said, noting that the system is designed for easy installation by unskilled workers.

"Right now we're finalizing exactly how the wireless sensor network will be configured to use the minimum amount of power," he concluded.


'/>"/>

Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Scientists demonstrate feasibility of preventing malaria parasite from becoming sexually mature
2. Streams remove significant amounts of nitrogen, preventing downstream dead zones
3. Environmental epigenetics has potential for preventing and treating disease
4. Preventing tuberculosis reactivation
5. Plants in forest emit aspirin chemical to deal with stress; discovery may help agriculture
6. Book breaks new ground in the study of economics and forest threats management
7. Old growth forests are valuable carbon sinks
8. Scientists point to forests for carbon storage solutions
9. Tahitian vanilla originated in Maya forests, says UC Riverside botanist
10. Extinction most likely for rare trees in the Amazon rainforest
11. The drivers of tropical deforestation are changing, say scientists
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/14/2017)... , Feb. 14, 2017  Wake Forest Baptist ... as its new chief executive officer (CEO). Freischlag joins ... John D. McConnell , M.D., who last year ... at the Medical Center, after leading it since 2008. ... full scope of Wake Forest Baptist,s academic health system, ...
(Date:2/10/2017)... , Feb 10, 2017 ... new report "Personalized Medicine - Scientific and Commercial Aspects" ... ... personalized medicine. Diagnosis is integrated with therapy for selection of ... on early detection and prevention of disease in modern medicine. ...
(Date:2/8/2017)... 7, 2017  Aware, Inc. (NASDAQ: AWRE ), ... financial results for its quarter and year ended December 31, ... 2016 was $3.9 million compared to $6.9 million in the ... of 2016 was $0.6 million compared to $2.6 million in ... quarter of 2016 was $0.5 million, or $0.02 per diluted ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:3/24/2017)... , March 24, 2017 On ... trading session at 5,817.69, down 0.07%; the Dow Jones ... and the S&P 500 closed at 2,345.96, marginally dropping ... sectors closed in green, 4 sectors finished in red, ... Friday, Stock-Callers.com has initiated reports coverage on the following ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... ... March 23, 2017 , ... Lajollacooks4u is proud to announce it has become the premiere team-building ... challenges for companies around the world, such as Illumina, HP and Qualcomm, and is ranked ... its increasing popularity is due to its new team building format, a way for teams ...
(Date:3/23/2017)...  GlobeImmune, Inc. today announced it has entered into ... shares of its common stock to NantCell, Inc., a ... the sale of its common stock, NantCell has agreed ... GlobeImmune 200,000 shares, an estimated $2.0 million in value, ... pleased to enter into this strategic agreement with NantCell," ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... YORK , March 23, 2017 ... ... of death, putting significant strain on health care systems, in ... cancer diagnoses rises, so too does the development of innovative ... minimum side effects. Among the many types of cancer treatments, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: