Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Technology Science

Spinach May Soon Power Mobile Devices 180

neutron_p writes "For the first time, MIT researchers have incorporated a plant's ability to convert sunlight to energy into a solid-state electronic "spinach sandwich" device that may one day power laptops and cell phones."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Spinach May Soon Power Mobile Devices

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:07PM (#10268713)
    The Apple PopiPod, now with Bluto size capacity.
  • Spinach! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Catcher80 ( 639611 )
    I think I see Pop-eye using their laptops in incredibly effective infomercials now! Will Bluto be using the regular crummy "battery-powered" laptops?
  • Dupe... *sigh* (Score:5, Informative)

    by grm_wnr ( 781219 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:08PM (#10268725)
  • Well Blow Me Down! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:08PM (#10268727) Homepage Journal
    Spinach?!? I knew it powered Popeye [], so it must be good.

    I wonder why they don't use Algae, seems that stuff works extremely well and multiplies fast to prove the point

    "Dude, your laptop smells like a swamp!"

    • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoi&yahoo,com> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:14PM (#10268803) Journal
      "Dude, your laptop smells like a swamp!"

      If only the Dell Dude would have had access to this technology!

      "I swear dude, I'm holding it for my laptop! Dude!"

      Even now, I miss him. *sniff* dude *sniff*

      • If only the Dell Dude would have had access to this technology!

        "I swear dude, I'm holding it for my laptop! Dude!"

        How could I forget!

        I live in the Santa Cruz area where Hemp is pushed upon everyone like it's the greatest thing in the world for food, clothing, oils, etc. etc., but along the way they'd like you to forget their real agenda is to legalize pot. So with that in mind, I bet some locals could find a way to power a Laptop off Hemp, or even pot to show it has more benefits and should be legalize

        • by bandy ( 99800 ) <> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @02:00PM (#10269384) Homepage Journal
          Well, it grows wild in all 50 states.

          Realistically, though, would legalization be such a bad thing? Sure, we'd face a shortage of Twinkies and Pink Floyd records for the first few weeks, but everyone would be mellow about it...
        • So when laptops are powered from hemp, it's basically a transition from buying Nickel Cadmium to buying nickel bags?
        • Actually, the seed oils in drug type cannabis contain more compounds which can be extracted and turned into Biodiesel fuel. The traditional "hemp" seeds of the lesser-potency non-drug types of cannabis have about 30% fewer oils under identical growing conditions because they just have smaller seeds.

          Also, hemp IS the greatest thing for the world. It is one plant from which you can get the ingredients for:
          - Paper
          - Oils (both lubricating and fuel such as Biodiesel)
          - Textiles and clothing (Up to four times as
    • I wonder why they don't use Algae, seems that stuff works extremely well and multiplies fast to prove the point

      "Dude, your laptop smells like a swamp!"

      hey, maybe we should suggest this solution to the guy with the dead pig smelling computers... []
    • Coming soon from Apple.... the iPopEye...
    • Plus the algae would like the heat from a laptop and grow even faster.
  • cyborg? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Barryke ( 772876 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:09PM (#10268737) Homepage
    organic notebook. Does that make it a cyborg?
  • DAMNIT! (Score:5, Funny)

    by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoi&yahoo,com> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:09PM (#10268739) Journal
    There goes my idea for the iPodato!

    You MIT bastards are gonna pay!

    • Re:DAMNIT! (Score:2, Funny)

      by Rude Turnip ( 49495 )
      "There goes my idea for the iPodato!"

      Thank you for playing, Dan Quayle.
    • I don't know... (Score:2, Insightful)

      I mean, if this thing is daylight only, as, of course, it must be, since it's converting sunlight to energy, then there will be room for a solid state vegetable sandwich of darkness!

      Really, what kind of techie is going to go out into the SUN to use his electronics? Do they know their market at all?

      Wonder how it compares in efficiency/durability with a modern solar cell? High efficiency solid state would be damn useful there.
  • Fine (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Fine just as long as i don't have to eat it.
  • Once you place some spinach into it, does the screen bulge outwards and show some strength imagery like a steam train or a volcano, a la almost every time Popeye eats the green stuff?
  • Cringe (Score:2, Funny)

    by retodd ( 798765 )
    *waits to hear all the lame Popeye jokes...
  • Protests (Score:5, Funny)

    by null etc. ( 524767 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:11PM (#10268764)
    Let's just hope that "People for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables" doesn't find out.
  • Sounds like a good use of spinach. God forbid I would actually eat it...
    • Re:A better use (Score:3, Informative)

      If you don't like spinach you're not doing it right.

      Don't get the frozen stuff. The bagged spinach works best. Put olive oil and garlic in a pan over medium-high heat and let it get warm. Add spinach and toss to coat for about a minute. It's one of the best non-meat foods I can think of.

  • by Alaren ( 682568 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:13PM (#10268783)

    ...will love this. Who needs an EMP when you can cripple a nation's electronic devices with weed killer []? Add one more thing to the list of stuff to confiscate at the airport...

    Still, pretty cool discovery (^_^).

    I got a free iPod. Want a free flatscreen TV or monitor []?

    • Hmmm, do you really think they'd let you on board the plane with a squirt-bottle full of Roundup, anyway?

      Or is Roundup one of those "Sure, it kills plants down to their roots, but it's perfectly safe for humans. Here, I'll squirt it in my eyes to prove it!"

      I'll have to check the label when I get home, I guess.
      • Be sure to check the label before the squirt test. Might be tough to do afterward.
      • Sorensen FW, Gregersen M.
        Rapid lethal intoxication caused by the herbicide glyphosate-trimesium (Touchdown)
        Hum Exp Toxicol. 1999 Dec;18(12):735-7.

        Two cases of rapid lethal intoxication with the herbicide glyphosate-trimesium (Touchdown) are presented. A 6-year-old boy who accidentally ingested a mouthful of glyphosate-trimesium died within minutes. The same happened to a 34-year-old woman who intentionally ingested approximately 150 ml of glyphosate-trimesium. The post-mortem examination revealed gastric
    • Glyphosate would not inhibit Photosystem I. It is an inhibitor of 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase. This enzyme is essential for plant cells to produce aromatic compounds including aromatic amino acids.
  • More on this... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chuck Bucket ( 142633 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:14PM (#10268806) Homepage Journal
    I read about spinach power a few months back, took me a few minutes to believe it wasn't a hoax, but it isn't. Basically plant proteins are the original solar cells but haven't been usefully harnessed for electrical power generation. Now e're getting close:

    • US researchers have made electrical cells that are powered by plant proteins.

      The biologically based solar cells, which convert light into electrical energy, should be efficient and cheap to manufacture, says co-creator Marc Baldo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology...

      Baldo's team isolated a variety of photosynthetic proteins from spinach and sandwiched them between two layers of conducting material. When light was shone on to the tiny cell, an electrical current was generated...

      The prototype cells still need a little refinement. At present, they can generate current for up to 21 days; then they give up. So alternatives that last longer are needed.

      The cells also convert only about 12% of the absorbed light energy into electricity. Still, the researchers believe that it should be possible to reach 20% efficiency, which is better than typical values for commercial silicon solar cells.

    Full here []
    It may be that more efficient and more durable chloroplasts can be found or made. The evolution of solar power seems to be going in several directions at once. It makes me wonder what experiments are in progress and not reported yet?


    • If only they'd used dandelions rather than spinach. My entire lawn could be generating power...
    • It makes me wonder what experiments are in progress and not reported yet?

      Well, I think this has been talked about a little here in the past, but I still think it's pretty neat:

      Algae directly producing hydrogen. [] While it's not electricity-related, it may answer the fuel cell problem in "How do we generate hydrogen without wasting a step on electrolysis?" There are also some inorganic solid-state solutions in the works as well.

    • The cells also convert only about 12% of the absorbed light energy into electricity. Still, the researchers believe that it should be possible to reach 20% efficiency, which is better than typical values for commercial silicon solar cells.

      I hope is true, unless this device surpass the silicon solar-cells, I don't see much interest for it.

      Why should we monopolize valuable fields to grow spinach for these devices while we can use deserts to install silicon solar panels and carry the electricity where it is

      • we pay farmers to not grow food. what valuable fields?
  • Phones, eh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Xeo 024 ( 755161 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:16PM (#10268829)
    You know you live in the 21st century, when your cell phone is better suited to perform photosynthesis than it is to talk to other people.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:16PM (#10268830) Homepage
    Huk-kuk-kug-kug-kug... oh...whaddya know there... nows I can call Olive on me spinachk-phone.

    (c'mon! someone had to make the reference!)
  • Gee Wiz! They invented solar panels... Wait a minute....
  • by xombo ( 628858 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:19PM (#10268860)
    We've been using Olive Oil to create light, now spinache to create power, sadly Bluto isn't a viable power source.

    On the other hand, if we could generate some form of alternative fuel out of cheeseburgers we wouldn't have to pay until Tuesday.
  • Another article (Score:4, Informative)

    by Xeo 024 ( 755161 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:22PM (#10268894)
    The article in the summary seems to have been /.ed so here [] is another article I found.
  • I think it should power vegetarians. That way we won't have to worry about being low on energy when the menu items on offer are carrot sticks and bland salad.
    • "I think it should power vegetarians. That way we won't have to worry about being low on energy when the menu items on offer are carrot sticks and bland salad."

      For every animal you don't eat, I'm going to eat three. --maddox
      • I hope for your sake you know what an imaginary number is - it'll become important when you try to figure out how many koalas, toucans, and monkeys I 'didn't eat' in the 14 years I've been a vegetarian.
  • Oddly enough I was thinking about this in the shower this morning. Of course all I was thinking was "Hey I wonder if you could use a plant's ATP producing ability like a battery?" I didn't actually figure out how to do it in the shower, just that it would be cool. This is much more impressive.
  • First, we have robots that are powered by flies, now we have laptops running off of spinich. Next we'll find a way to use human bodies as power sources. I think there was a movie about that...
  • This is excellent news! We are one step closer to creating artificial photosynthesis, which would be extremely useful both in space and here on earth.

    If we had the ability to convert CO2 back into O2, the benefits to mankind as a whole would be astronomical. Not only would we be able to make extended journeys in space, we would also be able to offset some of the environmental issues dirty industry produces.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Alright I've got 10,000 night minutes for my brand new spinich phone! ...unfortunately it doesnt work at night.
  • New Rule (Score:3, Funny)

    by jamesl ( 106902 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:31PM (#10269002)
    Lets make a rule that nothing gets posted until it has a part number, price and ship date. Next it'll be Personal Computers with hard drives. Electronic cameras. Carrying your entire eight track tape collection around in a little box called an iPod.

    A little reality here.
  • Dear mommy (Score:2, Funny)

    by wikinerd ( 809585 )
    Dear mommy, I didn't send you email for a long time because the dog ate the spinach battery of my laptop...
  • You could use the leaves for power, and the flower for a speaker. Touch the leaf to turn it on or off.

    And they must be using one of these to power their server: Warning: mysql_select_db(): supplied argument is not a valid MySQL-Link resource in /home/.nanette/phys/ on line 137 SQL Error:
  • Looks like they are running their server on spinach alright...
  • I guess my swiss chard laptop is already outdated.
  • Fossil fuels and food are all the realms of the animal. Nuclear and antimatter are the future. A recent New Scientist notes that pocket nuclear devices will come soon. Now you're talking many binary orders of magnitude better power.
  • I am still waiting on the spinach powered car. I mean a laptop is just a luxury right? I bet a horse gets pretty good miles to the spinach....
  • Well, know I have something to do with spinach aside from making me toss my cookies. Should we start buying up Spinach futures now?
  • Efficiency (Score:3, Interesting)

    by the JoshMeister ( 742476 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:52PM (#10269265) Homepage Journal

    My first instinct was, "Wait a minute... they want to add a third wheel to solar energy?" We already have silicon solar panels that convert sunlight into energy. So why add something in between? Wouldn't that be less efficient?

    The more I researched, though, the more I realized that my initial reaction was somewhat rash. Think about it: if nature already has a time-proven method, why not harness that rather than reinventing the wheel? Especially if the "reinvented" (silicon) method is less efficient.

    I found a CNN article [] from 2 October 2003 where this idea was explained. Back then, less than a year ago, it was estimated that the efficiency would reach 10 percent by the end of 2004. According to one source [] referenced by another poster, we're already at 12 percent, and now achieving 20 percent is expected! (According to the CNN article, 20 percent is the efficiency of our current silicon solar power.) If the technology continues to develop at this rate, it could become more energy-efficient than silicon and allow for some very cool technology in the not-too-distant future.

    (What exactly that technology might be, I'm not too sure. Who wants a disposable cell phone battery when current ones can be recharged in a couple hours? Anyone have any thoughts on how this tech could be best used?)

  • TFA Link (Score:2, Informative)

    by hackronym0 ( 812439 ) ml []

    This is a link to a relevant article on the mit servers (the other ones are toasted)

  • Reminds me of TOTL []'s Spud Server [].
  • I just remembered in the movie "My Stepmother is an Alien" [] Kim Basinger talks about using spinach to warm her hands.
  • Wouldn't it be more effective to transform spinach into methane by natural methods and build fuel cells into underwear?
  • Except we used a potato and a beaker with salt water. The power we generated we used to light a bulb. ;)
  • by ultramk ( 470198 ) <> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @02:14PM (#10269537)
    I used to work in the ag-packaging industry.

    Boxes for spinach are very distinctive, because they have a TON of holes in them to allow cooling systems to be more efficient when they're stacked on a pallet in a refrigerated truck etc.
    (most boxes for leafy greens-lettuce, etc. have a few holes but nothing like on the scale of spinach boxes)
    When I asked about this, I was told that the spinach is so biologically active--even after being picked--that it generated enough heat inside the boxes to require extra cooling--otherwise the shelf life would plummet.

    Hint: keep your greens at EXACTLY 34F / 1C (no lower than that, and not much more than a couple of degrees higher). They'll last far, far longer in your refrigerator!

    So, I guess that's why they picked spinach for this project. That dark, dark green is there for a reason.

    • Yeah, the problem that I see is that it's too darn fragile to use in most places, due to its temperature requirements. But the process could prove to be hardier than the plant itself.

      Still, one wonders why they didn't pick spiroulina instead...
  • "MIT researchers have incorporated a plant's ability to convert sunlight to energy"

    And what is sunlight made of??
    Light is not converted to energy. This sentence is ridiculous. The sunlight already is a form of energy that is converted to electrical energy through a new process.

    Asinine statements like this really irk me (especially when they come from supposedly technical sources like /.)
  • These babies will be in the stores while I'm still grappling with the pickle matrix
  • This is a great acheivement and all, but I didn't see any numbers showing efficiency, voltage& curreent produced/square cm, etc.

    How do they compare to silicon based solar cells both in price (now they probably can't, but what about future projections), power density and efficiency?

  • it's being bloated, will use more spinash and will be a case with Boulimia nervosa right ?

  • Laptop running Windows:

    "I yam that I yam and that's all that I yam" - BSOD...

    Laptop running Linux:

    "Buy me a hamburger today and I will gladly display an X Window on Tuesday!"

System checkpoint complete.