Istanbul Bilgi University: Electricity Can Be Generated While Plants Grow

The joint work of Istanbul Bilgi University Genetics and Bioengineering Department and Energy Systems Engineering Department can generate sustainable electrical energy from plant development. The same project enables the production of electrical energy while the plants grow in agriculture. There is no need to establish a private area, facility or generation unit for electricity generation


Plants produce their own nutrients and the energy they need by photosynthesis to grow and maintain their vital activities. At the same time, they meet the nutrient and energy needs of other organisms that cannot produce their own food through photosynthesis. Ömer Yıldız, a graduate of Istanbul Bilgi University Genetics and Bioengineering Department, and Ege Uras, a student of BİLGİ Energy Systems Engineering Department With its joint work, sustainable electrical energy can be produced from plant development. BİLGİ Energy Systems Engineering Department Inst. Prof. and Director of High Energy Physics Application and Research Center. Dr. Serkant Ali Çetin and BİLGİ Genetics and Bioengineering Department Head Prof. Dr. Hatice Gülen's The project, which is carried out, allows the generation of electrical energy during food production. The project, which offers two-way benefits, can be applied in large-scale agricultural production areas and small house or farm gardens. In addition to preventing industrial pollution, this system is used to generate electrical energy in the process of cultivating plants for purposes other than food (such as ornamental plants, parks / gardens / grass), where agricultural production cannot be made due to negativities such as inefficiency. However, when ready-to-use plants in the size of a pot are turned into a commercial product, they can have the potential for use in homes or offices.

Environmental and ecosystem compatible production

The system designed in the project does not harm the plant and nature. The system allows the production of electrical energy while the growth and product giving process of the plants continues. While the plant is used for growth and development by converting some of the sugar it produces directly or into other molecules, it gives some to the soil through its roots. Microorganisms in the soil emit electrons with gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) when they use the sugar that plants release into the soil as an energy source. Within the scope of the project, electron and hydrogen released into the environment create an electrical potential difference in the anode and cathode plates placed in the soil, and the voltage and current values ​​obtained by collecting the electrical energy can be measured. Today, 80 percent of the total energy need in the world is met from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. The burning of carbon draws attention as one of the main causes of environmental pollution, which is one of the biggest problems of our age.

With the project, fuel cells collect energy with carbon panels in crystalline form. It doesn't harm life itself in this process. There is no need to establish a private area, facility or generation unit for electricity generation.

Corn and hemp tried for the first time

The foundation of the system on which BİLGİ was working was laid in 1911 by Prof. It was cast by MC Potter. Potter feeds the bacterial colony with sugar and turns the reaction into electrical energy and calls this system the microbial fuel cell. Today, many researchers apply this system in a sustainable way using plants. The system established by BİLGİ, on the other hand, enables more efficient energy production with agricultural plants for the first time. In this sense, the system designed within the scope of the project was tested for the first time with agricultural plants such as corn and hemp that are effective in terms of growth and development rate, both with their root structure and the amount of glucose they give to the soil. The project is also unique in that it is the first time a fungus species that has the property of living in common with plant roots as microorganisms has been used for this purpose.

Reached 200 times the electric power

Within the scope of the project, measurements and observations continue with the growth system of both plants. In the measurements and evaluations made so far, approximately 200 times the highest electrical power obtained in studies using only microbial fuel cells, not based on vegetative cultivation, has been reached. In another study conducted in a similar way and included in the literature to increase electricity production with different glucose applications, results were obtained almost 10 times the highest voltage value obtained.

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The project stands out in two aspects

Stating that they attach importance to creating a design by combining engineering knowledge with information from basic sciences, Prof. Dr. Hatice Gülen said, “This project stands out in two ways. First, we bring students from different engineering departments together and gain the ability to work in multidisciplinary teams. Second, we encourage students to develop environmentally friendly technologies in engineering designs and to produce sustainable bio-solutions. With this situation, students can develop a holistic perspective and integrated approach to complex engineering problems. In addition, the fact that the project is entitled to TÜBİTAK support is also important in terms of enabling students to experience the process of transforming a research idea into design and even protatip production within a certain business planning with a certain budget, and to gain the ability to report and present all these stages. For the reasons I mentioned above, the project's being a first is a source of motivation for other students as well ”.

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We train engineers who produce solutions

Stating that we aim to train engineers who can make independent observations, identify problems and produce solutions, Prof. Dr. Serkant Ali Çetin continued as follows: “In this context, this project, which was triggered entirely by the curiosity of our students and their question, excited me. Working together of students from two different programs is also an important element of the project. In fact, both Energy Systems Engineering and Genetics and Bioengineering programs are interdisciplinary by nature. With this project, a very good example of this multidisciplinarity has been created. As advisors in both programs, our experimental studies in our own research provided our students with a broad knowledge of the experimental methodology. In this context, the process gave me the opportunity to experience different approaches in experimental studies. It is also a source of pride that the target work of the project is capable of contributing to the scientific literature. " - Hibya



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