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New 'E-Kaia' technology harvests excess energy from plants to charge mobile phones

In want of a free wall outlet, future mobile phone users could simply plug in to the nearest cactus thanks to a new system called E-Kaia —  developed by a team of researchers in Chile —  that collects the leftover energy from photosynthesis.

E-Kaia can charge small devices, like mobile phones or LED lights, using a single healthy plant. As noted by the Manquehue Institute, the E-Kaia team says its invention can output as much as 5 volts at 0.6 amps.

For comparison, Apple's ultra-compact USB power adapter —  included with the iPhone — pushes 5 volts at 1 amp.

Energy is captured from the plant via a "biocircuit board," though further details of E-Kaia's inner workings are scant. The group is reluctant to say more while its patents are still under review.

Creators Evelyn Aravena, Carolina Guerrero, and Camila Rupcich hope to commercialize E-Kaia this year, having received funding from the economic development arm of the Chilean government.

E-Kaia is not the first system of this type, but if the technology holds up it would prove to be by far the most efficient. Plant-e, based in the Netherlands, says its competing solution requires 100 square meters of plants to harvest a similar amount of energy.