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PLoS One. 2015 Aug 24;10(8):e0136639. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136639. eCollection 2015.

Effects of Electrode Material on the Voltage of a Tree-Based Energy Generator.

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School of Technology, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing, China.


The voltage between a standing tree and its surrounding soil is regarded as an innovative renewable energy source. This source is expected to provide a new power generation system for the low-power electrical equipment used in forestry. However, the voltage is weak, which has caused great difficulty in application. Consequently, the development of a method to increase the voltage is a key issue that must be addressed in this area of applied research. As the front-end component for energy harvesting, a metal electrode has a material effect on the level and stability of the voltage obtained. This study aimed to preliminarily ascertain the rules and mechanisms that underlie the effects of electrode material on voltage. Electrodes of different materials were used to measure the tree-source voltage, and the data were employed in a comparative analysis. The results indicate that the conductivity of the metal electrode significantly affects the contact resistance of the electrode-soil and electrode-trunk contact surfaces, thereby influencing the voltage level. The metal reactivity of the electrode has no significant effect on the voltage. However, passivation of the electrode materials markedly reduces the voltage. Suitable electrode materials are demonstrated and recommended.

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