Technology + Ethics Behind Turning Trees into Power Generators

In its earliest stages, and developed by graduate students from Keio University in Tokyo, the “biological microgrid” Raiki will aim to harvest electricity from trees by drawing from the “triboelectric” effect in foliage. This is a phenomenon of movement, much like static electricity, generated when positively charged leaves come into contact with negatively charged materials (like a tree trunk). Industrial designer Catalina Lotero explained this at Design Indaba 2020, where she also questioned the ethical impact by asking, “Is it ethically correct to use something that’s alive and tweak it like a product?” Read more about the technology and its underlying questions at Quartz.