Check Out Moss Power, It’ll Grow On You

Moss is Earth’s natural carpeting. Unfortunately, its tendency to creep and cover leads many people to spend hours (and hundreds of dollars) trying to eliminate it from their lawns and gardens. What many don’t realize is that in addition to being soft and beautiful, moss could be used as a source of renewable energy in the very near future.

To demonstrate moss’s fuzzy green potential for generating electricity with zero carbon emissions, a team of designers and scientists from Cambridge University built a combination table and lamp. The table features a layer of moss-filled cells connected to conductive fibers inside the furniture. This energy is collected into a battery that can be used to power small electronic devices.

Moss-Powered Table

Image via Biophotovoltaics/Cambridge University

This unique piece of furniture is a critical part of the researchers’ study of biophotovoltaic (BPV) technology. BPV generates electricity from light energy by exploiting the photosynthesis of living organisms such as moss, algae, cyanobacteria and vascular plants. As the moss photosynthesizes, it releases organic compounds as waste, and the bacteria break these compounds down, releasing electrons as they do, notes

Now before you get too excited, the moss doesn’t generate enough electricity to power the lamp. Yet. Unfortunately, this is a relatively new area of research, and scientists say there are significant technical hurdles to overcome before BPV can be used to power large objects like laptops or cell phone chargers.

Currently, the moss generates about 50 milliwatts per square metre (mW/m2). To put that in perspective, it would take an entire day for the table to produce enough energy to power a laptop for just 20 seconds! But, hey, it’s a start. “The moss table provides us with a vision of the future,” said researcher Carlos Peralta. “It suggests a world in which self-sustaining organic-synthetic hybrid objects surround us, and supply us with our daily needs in a clean and environmentally friendly manner.”

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog