Scientists from Iowa state university have invented a tree-like structure with artificial leaves to mimic the movement of these leaves when opposed to the wind and generate electricity. In addition to being a source of electrical energy, they could also have an aesthetic role in the streets or buildings that have trees on top, like cell phone towers in las vegas that are camouflaged as being trees.

Their work was published in PLOS one under the title ''Wind Energy Conversion by Plant-Inspired Designs''

Growing electricity on a tree

Getting energy from the wind is one of the cheapest sources of energy on the planet, people build large turbines that are moved by the wind producing energy from its mechanical movement.

Now researchers from Iowa university are making use of the same wind-movement-energy concept but from a different perspective. The researchers invented an artificial tree with artificial leaves that are sensitive to air movement, when they are opposed to air they mechanically move. Once a mechanical movement is available, it could be transformed into electricity by the pressure of movement, something called Piezoelectricity.

The researchers say that their invention will not replace wind turbines, but it is going to be an additional (cheaper) source of wind energy that could be provided to everyone. The researchers also think that their invention could have an aesthetic role besides its energy-generating role, making it useful and beautiful at the same time.


Sometimes nature has designs that are so complex and sophisticated that we would never reach by ourselves. Biomimetics is when scientists steal from nature its designs and apply them to their artificial inventions. The field has been used in computer science, nanotechnology and many other areas of science and technology.

Although the artificial tree is promising and creative, but it is still a long way from deceiving people that it is a real tree and a long way from having the desired aesthetic side of it, more work needs to be done.

The artificial tree mimic the Cottonwood trees because these specific trees have flat stalks that make the leaves respond regularly to the wind. Scientists have built a specialized plastic inside the artificial leaves that produces electric energy when moved by the wind.