The Loh Down On Science

Smokey Sez

A curious MIT undergrad has figured out just how trees make electricity.

WHO can prevent forest fires? Only you, and. . . TREES?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

Scientists have long known trees generate trace amounts of electricity--they just didn't know HOW.

Christopher Love, a curious MIT undergrad, has now figured it out.

He discovered that a tree produces electricity in response to an imbalance between the amount of alkalinity in the tree and in the soil it grows in.

So he and his fellow researchers developed a device that taps into a tree, collecting its tiny electrical charges.

For what purpose? An entirely self-serving one: To power un-manned fire sensors in remote forests.

Love's gadget stores tree juice in a battery that can run a temperature and humidity sensor. The sensor wirelessly transmits that data to a weather station, alerting rangers to the start or spread of a fire.

Love says the sensors could also be used along our borders, to detect smugglers trying to sneak in radioactive materials.

Because, you know, Smokey the Bear can't be everywhere.


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