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Power Science

Tapping Trees for Electricity? 392

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the dc-tree dept.
dr_agonfly writes "Despite many skeptics, a Massachusetts company is getting investor interest in developing a process to tap electric power from trees. MagCap is looking to boost the current power from just under 2 volts to a more useful 12 volts with investor funding." From the article: "Jim Manwell, director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Renewable Energy Resource Laboratory, questioned the potential of MagCap's plans. 'I'm wildly skeptical,' he said. 'I would need to see proof before I believed it. It strikes me as pretty questionable for a number of reasons.'"
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Tapping Trees for Electricity?

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:22PM (#14449493)

    • Imagne how much power a beowulf cluster of these trees will deliver!
    • In Soviet Russia, trees plug into YOU!
    • In Korea, only old trees produce electricity.
    • I, for one, welcome our electric tree overlords.
    • ...but will the trees run Linux?
    • All your trees are belong to us.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:22PM (#14449494) Journal
    From the article:
    He expects to find investors to help pay for the research needed to figure a way to increase the tree power from less than 2 volts to 12 volts sometime this year, creating an alternative to fossil fuels.
    It sounds like they have a long way to go yet and there is reason for much skepticism. Everything has some amount of electric charge to it, even the surface of your skin. Does that mean we should research away to increase that small voltage to something larger so we can all walk around with extension cords hanging off our arms?

    Afterall, there was the man who did this [bbc.co.uk] accidentally!
    • Call me a skeptic but they are claiming that right now they are only able to produce under 2 volts. How much under 2 volts?
    • IPO (Score:3, Interesting)

      by inKubus (199753)
      MONEY REALLY *DOES* GROW ON TREES! LOOK AT THAT TOMATO! YOU CAN EVEN CUT A TIN CAN WITH IT!

      Sorry.

      Ahem, I think they have already proven that there is not enough sun energy per square yard of surface area on the earth to meet even a small percentage of our yearly hydrocarbon energy consumption. However, this could be useful for highway or trail markers, maple syrup harvesters (let them know when a bucket is full without requring batteries, etc. I don't see how this could possibly be cheaper than commodit
      • Re:IPO (Score:5, Funny)

        by joebok (457904) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @07:31PM (#14450051) Homepage Journal
        From TFA:

        Wadle became interested in the concept while studying lightning coming from the ground, "which led him to believe that there's some type of power emanating from earth, which led him to trees," Lagadinos said.

        Not that that chain of reasoning inspires any confidence what-so-ever in me, the free power apparently comes from the ground, not the sky...

        Unless the "trees" he is talking about only have a couple branches at the top and really long, ropey leaves that seem to go to another "tree" just like it...
      • Re:IPO (Score:4, Informative)

        by AnotherBlackHat (265897) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @10:06PM (#14450878) Homepage

        I think they have already proven that there is not enough sun energy per square yard of surface area on the earth to meet even a small percentage of our yearly hydrocarbon energy consumption.


        Who ever told you that was wrong.

        With special care, algae can produce 50 grams of oil per square meter per day.
        But with more typical care, algae produces about 5 grams of oil per square meter per day.
        Even using that typical figure, you could still produce the trillion gallons of oil needed annually with an area only slightly larger than the Great Sandy.

        In other words, not only is there enough sun light hitting the earth, there's enough sunlight hitting in the earth in places were plants aren't currently growing.

    • by Rorschach1 (174480) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:50PM (#14449773) Homepage
      The fact that they're equating voltage with power should be a big clue that something's not right. It's like that comment in the Matrix about a human being generating as much power as a 100-volt battery. Without knowing current, it really tells you nothing. I can produce thousands of volts from a 3-volt battery with a fairly simple circuit. Will that create more power? Not at all - it's less, because of the losses in the circuit.

      Nothing to see here...

      • The only power they are working on is the power to move money from investors accounts to theirs.

    • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @07:05PM (#14449882) Homepage Journal
      so we can all walk around with extension cords hanging off our arms?

      That's not where they'll put the cord.
    • Does that mean we should research away to increase that small voltage to something larger so we can all walk around with extension cords hanging off our arms?

      No, that would be limbs
  • How many amps? Enough to be worth it?
    • Silly goose! A = V/R.
    • Re:2 - 12 Volts? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rei (128717)
      It depends on the process that generates it, but you're right - the current is probably minimal.

      Want to propose theoretical sources of charge? Wood's not a bad insulator (although nothing compared to plastics), so any charge development won't dissipate too quickly. Perhaps static charges in the leaves between different trees from wind? Doesn't seem likely that one tree would tend to build up positive charges and the other negative, with the easiest discharge route being through the ground, however. Perh
    • The issue is not really how many Amps, it is how much power (watts) or energy (watt/hours etc)? And how is this power/energy derived? Living things take in power, mainly from the Sun, and convert it into latent energy in the form of sugars and oils. Currently we tap that latent enery by burning it. If we extract the energy before it gets to sugars and oils the tree will stop growing (at best) or die.

      My uninformed guess would be that work focussing on improving phto-voltaic conversion would be more prodt
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Broadband over electric trees?
  • by lpangelrob (714473) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:24PM (#14449523)
    ...we'll be living like the ewoks [swgalaxies.net] in no time!

    On second thought, I don't think they have electricity in those dens. We'll be living better than ewoks!

    • Nah.... (Score:2, Funny)

      by ackthpt (218170) *
      Watch out, world ... we'll be living like the ewoks in no time!

      Nah!

      Tapping the trees for current will turn them into Triffids and they'll gobble us all up. Don't bother trying to climb a tree to get away from them, either.

      at least they're not trying use them for cellular phone, they'll try to impress their own ring-tones on us

  • by ChipMonk (711367) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:26PM (#14449536) Journal
    Ever seen "The Matrix"? What goes around, comes around.
  • by OakDragon (885217) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:26PM (#14449537) Journal
    The article doesn't do much to explain the process. Maybe this is it:

    Wadle became interested in the concept while studying lightning coming from the ground, "which led him to believe that there's some type of power emanating from earth, which led him to trees," Lagadinos said.

    Ah, I see. Trees produce lightning. But surely that would be more than 2 volts?

    • This is how it works (Score:5, Informative)

      by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:36PM (#14449655)
      From the article:
      Lagadonis said tests have generated 0.8 volts to 1.2 volts by driving an aluminum roofing nail half an inch into a tree attached to a copper water pipe driven 7 inches into the ground.
      The real source of the power is the aluminum nail, which is converted from its oxide using electricity- massive amounts of electricity. (Remember back in 2000 when aluminum producers started reselling that electricity to California during its power crisis, instead of just making aluminum with it?)

      When the nail completely corrodes, the tree will stop "producing electricity" and this company will have moved on to impressing investors with potato clocks.
      • I think you nailed it.
      • by dnamaners (770001) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @07:23PM (#14449986) Journal
        Yes your chemistry sounds about right, as the aluminum corrodes you get a current. However this can't be too good for the plant. Besides the obvious bit about a big spike being nailed in, aluminum ions are toxic to plants. As this thing makes "power" (which in it self is questionable due to the energy cost of refining aluminum) it poisons the tree. I am sure since IAPMB (I am a Plant Molecular Biologist) that the plant can tolerate a certain amount of aluminum, however quite a lot can come from acid soils and the environment. I am doubtful that any real amount of "power" can be harvested this way without killing (or severely stunting) the trees. In short, what the heck is the point, sure you can make a potato battery out of a tree. However like the potato clock, you don't expect the potato to survive long term as a living battery.

        Talk about the rape of the forests ... This must be forest BDSM.
      • I knew it was snake oil without wasting time on TFA, and here's how I knew:

        "MagCap is looking to boost the current power from just under 2 volts to a more useful 12 volts with investor funding."

        Apparently any technological breakthrough, no matter how fantastic, unfeasable, or absurd, can be achieved with enough funding.

        Dollars to donuts these asshats are just trying to fleece some hippies with more money than brains.
      • Indeed. In some circles aluminium is more commonly known as congealed electricity.

        I'm going to bet that the cost of the nail is more than the value of the electricity produced - but the real question will be, "Is this the least efficient ways you can produce power?"
        • by Burz (138833)
          In some circles aluminium is more commonly known as congealed electricity.

          Some companies [evionyx.com] understand this, and are beginning to make metalic (not H2) fuel cells with exceedingly high power densities using zinc or aluminum fuel.
  • Confusing terms (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arctic Fox (105204) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:27PM (#14449543) Homepage Journal
    "the current power from just under 2 volts to a more useful 12 volts"

    How about something more useful? Like wattage?

  • to start getting posted.
  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by FidelCatsro (861135) * <[fidelcatsro] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:27PM (#14449550) Journal
    Now that's what I call Flower Power
  • ...except that there will be trees instead of humans!!! I love it! Also, no need to develop a VR world to keep trees happy and growing :-)!
  • by JackDW (904211) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:27PM (#14449555) Homepage
    MagCap is looking to boost the current power from just under 2 volts to a more useful 12 volts
    Neither current nor power is measured in volts. If they can't get that right...
  • by ClayJar (126217) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:29PM (#14449570) Homepage
    When you hook up two dissimilar electrodes through an electrolyte (which in this case is nicely packaged within a tree and the nearby ground), you get an electrochemical potential. In the case of copper and aluminum as your electrodes, the potential is about two volts.

    An easy way to get 12 volts? Connect six tree-cells in series.
    • by Pedrito (94783) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:43PM (#14449720) Homepage
      An easy way to get 12 volts? Connect six tree-cells in series.

      Precisely what I was going to say, and I'm sure anyone with a basic knowledge of electricity would say the same thing.

      Of course, the real problem probably isn't the voltage so much as the wattage. 12 volts is great, but if it's at about .01 milliamps, it's not going to power a whole lot. Unfortunately, the article doesn't mention amps or watts, and without at least 2 of the 3, there's not really much to say about the potential (pun sort of intended).

      As Gregory Hines said in Running Scared about hitting the third rail on the subway, "it's not the volts that kill you, it's the amps". A taser hits with 50,000-150,000 volts. The reason you don't burn to a crisp when you get hit by one is the amps are so low.

      You want to get the voltage to a usable level, but you also need enough amps to run whatever it is you want to run. Frankly, I doubt a tree can produce enough amps, at least without permanently damaging it, for any serious period of time. The act of being a battery will cause a chemical change in the tree which I have to think wouldn't be a healthy one. Since the tree is alive, it will probably repair the damage, but whether it can repair it fast enough to keep from dying is another question.

      Needless to say, I have some serious doubts about this "technology".
    • Well, yes, but how are you going to raise millions in "investment" capital by pointing that out?

      "In my 25 years of practicing patent law, I've never seen anything like this."

      Ah, well, if a lawyer hasn't seen anything like it it must be a revolution in chemistry.

      KFG
    • Or, he chopped down the trees and burned them to create steam. This steam turned a turbine, turning a magnet to induce electricity.

      Brilliant!
    • And you've got to love the part about figuring out how to filter and stabilize the electricity. Gee, I bet no one's had to design a power supply to do THAT before!

      You want stable, filtered 12 volts from it? Go to Maxim [maxim-ic.com], get yourself an inductor-based regulated DC-DC converter chip, some decent sized filter capacitors on both sides, and you're set. But you're still better off with lemons. And I'm no biochemist, but I'm guessing the tree's not going to like having its sap chemistry messed with, either.

  • by nweaver (113078) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:29PM (#14449573) Homepage
    The guy sounds like a clueless dweeb, he just created a classic battery with different anode and cathode (Al and Cu in his case, forget which would be which) in an electrolyte (the tree/dirt).

    My guess is that iss no different from the classic lemon battery [hilaroad.com], just replacing the galvanized (zinc-coated) nail with an aluminum nail.

  • by MagicDude (727944) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:29PM (#14449575)
    I pine for the day that this kind of energy production becomes poplar.
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:30PM (#14449578) Homepage Journal
    From the article:Lagadonis said tests have generated 0.8 volts to 1.2 volts by driving an aluminum roofing nail half an inch into a tree attached to a copper water pipe driven 7 inches into the ground. But the electricity is useless because it's unstable and fluctuates.

    Here's the answer: 13 aluminum roofing nails, 13 copper pipes, hooked up in series to an automotive voltage regulator and an ampmeter. If you get a fluctuation between 5-20 amps, take out the ampmeter and replace it with fuse and a cigarette lighter adapter, and plug in your iGo charger to charge your cell phone off of it.
  • > Tapping Trees for Electricity?

    It's like thunder, (Boom!)
    Fast as lightning, (ZzzzowZzowZowwww!)
    These cover versions are frightening,
    Ya better knock, knock, knock, knock, knock...
    On wood.
    Baby.
    Oooh, ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh!

    All we have to do is wrap some magnet wire around Eddie Floyd (who wrote the original in 1966), and smother Amii Stewart in bar magnets.

    Play the Amii Stewart 1978 disco version to spin Eddie Floyd's corpse up to several million RPM in one direction, and play the 2004 Rachael Stev

  • with real current!
  • by zxnos (813588)
    quick, be the first on your block with a tree powered alarm clock. [ehow.com]
  • Long ways to go (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gasmonso (929871) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:34PM (#14449620) Homepage

    With such a poor output, you would need an entire forest to power a TV set. While I find the article somewhat interesting, it lacks detail of any sort. It really just seems like the potato clock I saw on Mr Wizard as a kid.

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
  • I wonder if it's anything like those potato clock thingies?
  • The Matrix would have been much slower paced if Neo woke up to find himself an Ent.

    Morpheus/Treebeard: "I have told your name to the Entmoot, and they have seen you, and they have agreed that you need to learn Kung Fu."
  • Every one knows you can tap trees for energy. Can you say maple syrup? Let's see electricity make pancakes extra delicious. (And I suppose you could probably develop a syrup powered generator too...but that's a project for another day.)

    But on a more serious note, where do people think that energy is coming from? Any energy that the tree has (whether it's in moving sap or the wood itself) came from the sun. It seems to me that this is a pretty roundabout way to extract solar power.
  • http://www.spartechsoftware.com/reeko/Experiments/ ExpHumanBattery.htm [spartechsoftware.com]

    A nice "do it at home" experiment to get the same results (copper and aluminum voltaic cell) using your own body rather than a tree as the electrolyte.

  • Lagadonis said tests have generated 0.8 volts to 1.2 volts by driving an aluminum roofing nail half an inch into a tree attached to a copper water pipe driven 7 inches into the ground. But the electricity is useless because it's unstable and fluctuates.

    Sounds a lot like a voltaic pile [wikipedia.org] to me. Something that was made for the first time 200 years ago, only using other materials. The only new thing I can see with this implementation, is that you're using a tree instead of the traditional "little chemist's"

  • This is about tapping investor's wallets, not trees. After all, "green" is HOT! And what could be "greener" than a tree?
  • Dunno about you, but it looks to me like what we really have here is a glorified, low-level battery. The key is that one pole is aluminum, the other is copper. If they are both the same metal, then you have something.

    The energy is coming from the interaction of a mildly acidic tree against the metal in the poles, and over time, the poles will corrode. It will take more energy to keep the poles uncorroded than will be generated by the "tree battery".

    In short, a Jr. High School project can do better with a pl
  • Just saw this over at Fark: Plants are producing methane [reuters.co.uk]

    As for his 2 ---> 12 volts problem... how about using a capacitor and a voltage regulator & step-up converter?

    You smooth out the current delivery, step up the voltage... I'm sure the article is leaving out a lot of information. The solution couldn't be that easy
  • by retro128 (318602) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:41PM (#14449699)
    It doesn't sound too different from the old lemon battery experiment [ca.gov]. Sure, he might be able to generate voltage, but the question is...Where are the AMPS? If he has 12V at .005 milliamps, this tree electricity won't be useful to anyone. I hope not too many investors are buying this guy's line...
  • by Quirk (36086) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:42PM (#14449710) Homepage Journal
    MagCap is looking to boost the current power from just under 2 volts to a more useful 12 volts with investor funding ."

    What's being tapped here are reckless investors. Personally I'm sticking with cold fusion.

  • The more I think about it, the more it smells like a scam: Yet another "New Source of Energy" fraud to capture investors.Anyone with a slight clue about chemistry or physics immediately sees that this is just a classic voltaic cell, using the tree and dirt as the electrolyte.

    Thus I wonder if this might be a deliberate scam to bilk some investors. At least they weren't claiming a perpetual motion machine.
  • Okay... they're using an aluminum roofing nail, and a copper water pipe.

    I think there's quite a lot of prior art here, but while we're looking at such stupid ideas let's consider my forthcoming patent for a similar idea using similar electrodes and McDonalds Cheeseburgers. Or potatoes. Let's use copper and aluminum or zinc electrodes and potatoes! They're a renewable resource!

    These stupid bastards haven't realised that they're simply getting back the energy that went into refining the metals used for

  • No, not because it's actually going to work. It's obviously just a crappy battery, and taking energy from the metals. It's brilliant because it's not crazy enough to sound completely ridiculous, it has a grain of truth in it, involves everyday simple things so it sounds plausible enough to the typical member of the public with no science background, and it has a "feel good" message. Who doesn't want to believe we can generate power from something as common as a tree?

    We should all be so smart to be able t
  • in the Netherlands when the trees start turning brown because all their photovoltaic energy is being syphoned off to run computers.

    When they kill all the trees what will be their next target? Weeds?
  • MagCap is looking to boost the current power from just under 2 volts to a more useful 12 volts with investor funding."

    Can I have some of the investor's money if I tell him to wire six trees in series? I'm going to go patent my new "grove" power concept now.

  • by vik (17857) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:53PM (#14449801) Homepage Journal
    He has indeed made a battery, and has made a cunning choice in using an aluminium nail because of its electrode potential. It works like this:

    Copper(II) electrode potential: 0.337V
    Aluminium electrode potential: -1.662V

    (Source http://www.ami.ac.uk/courses/topics/0157_corr/ [ami.ac.uk])

    String them together in a condictive electrolyte (tree sap & humic acid in the soil will do) to get a cell with 1.999V potential - magically matching his 2.0V

    Of course, his aluminium nail is corroding and will need replacing - which is where the energy comes from.

    You can't connect the trees in series to increase the voltage because they share a common ground.

    Vik :v)
  • by pla (258480) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @06:54PM (#14449808) Journal
    First of all... Increasing voltage has a trivial, known solution. Starting with DC makes it a bit harder, but still a well-understood problem with a wide array of solutions to choose from. Since none of the sources of information on this company (and I looked into this one before it hit Slashdot) mention either wattage or ampereage, I have to suspect the real problem involves not volts, but watts. Yes, magically increasing voltage would increase watts via "W=V*A", but not if you do so via a voltage conversion rather than a "real" increase in output.

    Second... An aluminum nail and a copper pipe, both embedded in a slightly corrosive fluid... Hmm, where have I heard something like this before? Oh yeah, the basic galvanic battery. Sorry MagCap, the Babylonians beat you to the punch on this one.

    Finally... Do trees particularly like having a few thousand aluminum nails driven into them? Not making a flakey "tree rights" argument, but rather, does using tree sap as a battery electrolyte really count as sustainable, or will it just kill the tree? Not to mention that both aluminum and copper salts tend to have deleterious effects on many organisms native to this planet.


    In summary - Listen to the skeptics on this one. I'll tolerate the zero-point folks before I'll let some MBA try to sell me a massively overblown version of the "potato clock".
  • Step 1: Cut down said tree
    Step 2: Chop into firewood sized chunks
    Step 3: Burn chunks obtained from (2)
    Step 4: Harness heat from (3) boil water
    Step 5: Use steam generated in (4) to turn steam turbine generator
    Step 5: ???
    Step 6: Electricity!!!
  • They filed for a PATENT on this? Sticking a nail in a tree and a pipe in the ground? Aren't we a bit late for a patent on a voltaic pile [kenyon.edu]? It's exactly the same thing as using a lemon or potato as a battery. I can get much better results from a stack of zinc and copper plates, some napkins, and a bunch of vinegar.
  • Jim Manwell, director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Renewable Energy Resource Laboratory, is quoted as saying, "There's a fundamental law of physics. The energy has to come from somewhere."

    Of course it does, Jim. The energy comes from the oxidation of the two metals. Leave that puppy plugged into the tree long enough, and your aluminum nail and copper pipe will oxidize away to nothing while the electricity--all whopping 2 volts of it--happily flows through the electrolyte (tree and dirt).

    Appa
  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @07:03PM (#14449871) Homepage
    Sorry, couldn't help myself...
  • by tmortn (630092) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @10:25PM (#14450993) Homepage
    According to the faq and press release on the home page for the company they do talk wattage. They essentially wire multiple taps into a capacitor circut that cleans the power a bit and ups the voltage by swapping the capcitors from parrallel for collection to series for pulsing when full.

    They think they can scale the basic idea to 12 volts and 1 amp. So 12 watts of energy.

    Interesting to note the faq clearly states this is not a galvanic reaction. And there is no destructive anode/electrode errosion. There seems to be no practical limit to the number of taps per tree (other than damaging the tree itself) and that the tree size dosn't make any difference. Also the power harnessed goes up during winter.

    In the end it looks like it is tapping into a store of energy held universally in the ground by using the tree spike as a positive pole while the ground spike is the negative.

    What I don't get is... this seems to mean it is something independent of the trees and it seems you could create an more efficient element for tapping the energy. All in all this sounds a lot like the old work of Tesla. He found that that the ground did indeed carry a charge along with the atmosphere. Heck lightning itself is indeed proof enough of the atmosphere... same for ground lightning with respects to the ground. So this isn't really all that crazy. Cloud based lightning is a difficult potential energy source to tap. However ground lightning should result from charge potentials in the gound. If you can find a way to tap that potential and release it in a measured manner you could then tap lightning as a basic source of energy. Since those potentials are driven by forces of nature it is essentially limitless.... though I suppose there is the potential to tap the energy at a higher rate than it is stored.
    • by tmortn (630092) on Wednesday January 11, 2006 @11:09PM (#14451202) Homepage
      Ok clarification. They think a single tap can be refined to produce a useful 12 volts at 1 amp via capacitors wired in a circut. Doing some quick and dirty numbers this thing looks real if that number is accurate.

      Aluminum nails are cheap, copper tubing is about a buck a foot, capacitors are pretty cheap. Just rough numbers it looks like you could wire up 1 kw worth of generating power with about 85 connections IF you had a circut capable of delivering 12 volts at one amp from a single tap. Round it to 100 for marigian of error and it looks like it is doable. Larger trees could probably stand 100 nails being driven into them if you spaced them out properly... certainly 25 per tree in a four tree setup.

      This is constant power so that would be 24kw-hr's a day which is a good bit more than the average home use. Raw Materials cost would be under 1000 bucks... heck under 500. Catch would be the circut... inverter and a battery bank to deal with peak usuage, and some means of discharging of excess energy.... probably just a ground rod to sink it back into the ground.

      But heck... they have already done a circut generating 2 volts. Single Tap generating around .8 volts run to 3 capacitors in parrallel which are switched to series when discharged generating 2.1 volts. They did not give an amp number on it. But if 12 volts at 1 amp is a reasonable refinement then they would have to be seeing roughly 6 amps from a 2 volt system... and they would need to be seeing roughly 15 amps from a single .8 volt connection.

      Again they do state explicitly in their faq. (it is a PDF link)

      http://www.magcap.com/pdf/faq.pdf [magcap.com]

      "
      Q: Is the voltage potential between an electrode inserted in the tree and one grounded both having different electro-potential characteristics due to electro-chemical reactions e.g. Galvanic batteries?

      A: In a Galvanic reaction there is metal to metal contact. Henceforth the word "galvanized". Validation and voltage measurement does not involve metal to metal contact. In addition, a chemical reaction requires a very elevated or very low PH level in order to create this alkaline or acidic condition. Impossibility of this concept is verified by the neutral PH levels of trees. A chemical reaction requires hours if not days to manifest. Voltage per our validation occurs instantaneously upon tree tapping. Consequently, a chemical reaction would result in breakdown of the electrode and thus resulting in loss of voltage. Data collected confirms no electrode breakdown and thus no loss in voltage.
      "

      They also refute the possibility that the tree is simply an RF receiver due to the fact various sizes of trees used have no effect on the amount of power harnessed. This makes me wonder if you could simply drive a post into the ground and get a similar effect... or some other material with similar conductive properties to wood.

      Can read the companies press release here

      http://www.magcap.com/pdf/press_release.pdf [magcap.com]

      Also a PDF. Much more coherent than the linked to article.
      • by freeweed (309734) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @12:04AM (#14451452)
        It's funny to see 300 people point out that this guy has re-invented the potato/lemon battery, and at the tail end of the story someone tries defending the process, by quoting the FAQ:

        Q: Is the voltage potential between an electrode inserted in the tree and one grounded both having different electro-potential characteristics due to electro-chemical reactions e.g. Galvanic batteries?

        A: In a Galvanic reaction there is metal to metal contact. Henceforth the word "galvanized". Validation and voltage measurement does not involve metal to metal contact.


        See, um, I'm no physicist, but I do know that in a galvanic cell, the metals most definitely do NOT touch each other. There is no metal-to-metal contact. None. The metal electrodes only interact through an electrolytic medium which carries ions between the two of them.

        Just for fun, let's look at the rest of this answer:

        In addition, a chemical reaction requires a very elevated or very low PH level in order to create this alkaline or acidic condition.

        No, chemical reactions can take place at literally any pH. Try again.

        A chemical reaction requires hours if not days to manifest.

        Try telling that to someone who works with high explosives. Or, if you don't believe me, go to your kitchen and add some vinegar to some baking soda. It won't take hours to react, but see for yourself if you're unsure.

        Anyway, the fact that the size of the trees has no effect on the amount of power .. well, all I see is talk about voltage, but we'll leave the advanced (ie: grade 11) physics out of this for now. We can safely stick to elementary school science for this. Go make a potato battery using the smallest potato you can find, and copper and aluminum electrodes. Now go make one using the biggest potato you can find. Notice that the voltage you can get from that is exactly the same!

        Dude, you've been hoodwinked. The FAQ is entirely, completely, 100% wrong on the most basic fact of how batteries, and for that matter, chemisty works.

        Mods, you've been had as well.

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