Space & Innovation

Potted Plant Charges Phone With Photosynthesis

European startup promises 2-3 recharges per day using just plant, soil and water. Continue reading →

When Mother Nature came up with photosynthesis, she likely wasn't expecting any USB cords to be involved. Alas, there's no stopping progress.

A European startup company is currently developing an intriguing gizmo that will let you charge your phone with your potted plant. The system, called Bioo Lite, harnesses the power of photosynthesis and generates electricity using only water, soil and any common house plant. (We might have suggested the name Power Plant, but hey - nobody asked us.)

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Power output from the Bioo Lite system is equivalent to a USB charge from a laptop or desktop computer, designers say, and can deliver up to three complete recharges in 24 hours to most smart phones or tablets.

Bioo Lite is actually a scaled-down version of the company's core Bioo technology, which uses panels placed beneath the soil to draw energy from the natural process of photosynthesis. Larger panels can be placed beneath garden plots, or smaller panels can be used with potted plants.

The technical details on the Indiegogo page are a little fuzzy, but similar technologies are already in circulation. Diagrams suggest that the Bioo system generates energy by processing microorganisms expelled by the plant's root system. The process does not impact the process of photosynthesis or the health of the plant itself, according to developers.

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In any case, the team guarantees that the Bioo Lite system will be able to recharge a standard smartphone two to three times per day for at least five years. The USB jack is designed to be compatible with most mobile devices. Pretty much any kind of house plant should do the trick, although the team notes that some plants produce more power than others. The cactus, for instance, is not recommended. Seriously.

Arkyne Technologies, the company behind the Bioo Lite system, is aiming for first deliveries by December. Early bird specials are already sold out on the Indiegogo page, but it looks like a pledge of around $135 U.S. will get you a single Bioo Lite pot in time for holiday shopping. Plant not included.

If you're looking to help the bees in your hood, consider adding some native flowering plants to your garden. "Think of the flowers your grandmother used in her garden as a practical guide, especially when using nonnative plants," advises a USDA report. "The pollinators will thank you." Looking for some ideas? Check out these flowering plants that can help give bees a boost.

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Crocus are a good choice to attract bees in the early spring. They're also pollinated by butterflies.

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Asters are perennials that provide nectar and pollen, and do well when planted in late summer and fall.

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Geraniums are another pollinator-friendly perennial.

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The Calendula is an annual that's sometimes called a pot marigold.

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Cleome are annuals that are native to the western United States, and they provide pollen in summer to bees.

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Bees loves sunflowers and sometimes even stop on them to catch a few zzzzs.

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Cut flowers, including zinnia (above), celosia, ageratum and wildflowers like goldenrod are bumble bee magnets. So are herbs including lavendar, anise hyssop, motherwort, basil and sage. Want to see more flowers -- and herbs to help bees? Check out this

cool illustration

from American Bee Journal.