Student Elena Mitrofanova and biochemist Paolo Bombelli have developed a green façade system that aims to explore how moss might be used as a source of renewable energy at an urban scale. Thanks to a series of hollow, modular clay bricks, the system utilizes the natural process of photosynthesis to generate electrical energy.
The moss consumes carbon dioxide and water from the environment and converts it into organic compounds. Bacteria that lives alongside the moss feed on the compounds, breaking them down to release free electrons. By harvesting these electrons we are able to generate electricity.
Compared with silicon-based photovoltaic cells, a system like this would be cheaper to produce, would be self-repairing, self-replicating and much more sustainable.
The modular bricks themselves are designed in a way that encourages the moss to thrive, including deep voids which shelter the moss from direct sunlight.
The prototype was able to produce 3 volts from an assembly of 16 modules. This may not seem like much, but with the increasing efficiency of modern appliances the system could still be put to use powering a building’s LED lighting for example.
The team at Modscape are certainly impressed by the system for embracing the modular concept in a new way.