No one is entirely sure how trees produce power in the first place. But by hooking up nails to a bigleaf maple tree and connecting a voltmeter and a boost converter, researchers at the University of Washington were able to generate a steady voltage of up to a few hundred millivolts. UW researchers built their electricity-harnessing device out of a boost converter that stores as little as 20 millivolts of power from trees and releases up to 1.1 volts. The custom converter is capable of storing smaller amounts of power than any other boost converter in existence. As you might expect, trees don’t produce nearly enough energy to power most electronic devices, but they do generate enough power for attached sensors to wirelessly keep track of environmental conditions or forest fires.
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