Creating a Solar Electric Forest with 3D Printed TreesEngineering360 News Desk | March 20, 2015
Scientists at VTT Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT) have developed a prototype "tree" that harvests solar energy from its surroundings—whether indoors or outdoors—stores it and turns it into electricity to power small devices such as mobile phones, humidifiers, thermometers and LED light. The technology can also be used to harvest kinetic energy from the environment. (Watch a video of the technology.)
The "leaves" of the tree are flexible, patterned solar panels made using a printing technique developed by VTT. These leaves form an electronic system complete with wiring that conduct energy into a converter that feeds electricity to small devices. The tree trunk is made with 3D technology by exploiting wood-based biomaterials VTT has developed. The solar panels are around 0.2 millimeter (mm) thick and include electrodes and polymer layers along with graphics that provide them with visual appeal.