Solar farms are proving to be a pretty good source of sustainable energy if you can figure out a clever place to put them. And windmills aren't bad either, especially if you can make their engines as efficient as possible. But breakthroughs from Ohio State University could give us another option in the form of small, swaying, tree-hairs.
It's obvious that trees and another other tall, skinny structures—up to and including buildings—have a tendency to sway in the breeze. In fact, large buildings have to have mechanisms put in place to compensate for this exact sort of movement.
But researchers at Ohio State University that, if made with certain and designed just right, tiny tree-like structures can maintain vibrations at a consistent frequency despite infrequent stimulation, which means they can turn erratic gusts and vibrations into steady and consistent power.
Forests of such trees could not only be used to create mini-wind farms in places where windmills are prohibitive—on the top or sides of buildings, for instance—they could also be placed on the underside of bridges to turn the shaking of footsteps and cars into power as well.
Early tests of prototype trees only generated low voltage currents, but the tests showed the concept was sound. So while we still should keep building ever larger solar fields and wind farms, the future of sustainable energy might actually involve covering everything we can get our hands on in small, electric forests.