The installation Nature Cognita is a research project that uses cutting edge technology which uses plants to produce renewable energy. This emerging technology is called plant-microbial fuel cells, PMFCs, which uses the natural process of photosynthesis to generate electrical energy.
The project is based on bio-photovoltaics – the method of obtaining energy with the help of plants and heterotrophic bacteria in soil. In this process plants using light energy consume carbon dioxide and water from the environment to convert it into organic compounds. Some of those compounds are released through the roots to the soil where a symbiotic bacteria occurs. The bacteria break down the matter, liberating free electrons. By providing an electrode for the micro-organisms to donate their electrons to, electricity can be harvested.
Plants are placed in ceramic pots, each of them containing an anode of conductive carbon fiber, soil with bacteria that produce electricity, and a cathode. Ceramic pots were designed and customised by the Shukhov Lab Team.
One battery can produce up to 0,7 Volts. The current depends on the way the pots are connected (parallel or series circuit). The final installation contains 86 such batteries which is capable of charging 2 smartphones simultaneously.
The project aims to expose new ecologic ways of producing energy on an urban scale while at the same time bringing nature to the built environment. Ultimately, the goal of Nature Cognita is to bring together three separate projects under one aim:
1. The first project develops the technology that makes flowers produce electricity. 2. The second develops the artificial intelligence that enables flowers to own themselves. 3. And the third enables the flowers to sell electricity and even use the income to buy more flowers. Or donate it.
Project authors Elena Mitrofanova, Ivan Mitrofanov (los mitros // )
Scientific development Prof Chris Howe, Dr Paolo Bombelli (department of biochemistry, university of cambridge)
Team Paweł Akimov, Michael Sokolov, Einar Kulbaev, Michael Omona, Neeraj Mazumder, Altynai Nogoibaeva, Anna Budnikova, Bek Zholdosh Mederbekov, Shukhov Lab, Higher School of Economics
Production Alexander Tretyakov, Project Fabrika 317