By Tahira Resalat, Sara Wilson, Rui Huang, Biying Lou
Group Project | 12 weeks
NAVIO explores the future of plant-based batteries and its applications. Our project was fundamentally designed to catalyse conversations about a sustainable world we can work towards, and how it may shape the way we behave. Sustainable design is more than just the materials, processes, or components we use to design a product or a system, but rather the way it may change our attitudes and behaviours towards each other and our surroundings.
There's been breakthroughs in both literature and design looking at 'greener' sources of energy. Dr Marin Sawa has pioneered research in plant-based energy production, looking at ways to culture and print algae to produce energy.
The winner of the recent James Dyson Award, Power Mutualism, has also been inspired by this concept to produce a garment which harnesses sweat from the body to power itself.
However, there still exists a gap in the perception of green energy and its reliability. Our aim is to therefore develop a reliable source of green energy, for which we defined reliability to be both perpetual and consistent. Reliability is a critical factor in increasing trust and receptivity of green energy.
NAVIO is consistent: it does not need to be charged and, in the right conditions, can exist perpetually without need for replacement. Batteries with these capabilities are particularly useful for essential devices, like navigation, in remote outdoor excursions. With NAVIO, you can leave your phone behind to explore the wilderness, and never have to worry about being disconnected.
How was NAVIO developed?
NAVIO was developed through modular innovation. A plant-based battery, together with a GPS system and specific design choices, informed by user testing, combine into the finished product. Here's how NAVIO works: a plant-based battery in your glove turns sunlight and moisture to energy that powers light-up navigation. You can now think of your world as moving between the trees instead of busy and narrow street maps.
In order for our project to be successful, it was important for us to understand the parameters and conditions in which the plant-based battery would work and whether it could produce enough power, approximately 4 watts, for our GPS system.
We carried out experiments about the size, concentration of the plant and medium in which to grow it in. Our results were as follows: The larger the quantity of the plant, the higher the voltage, with an exponential increase in voltage as size increases. Similarly, the higher the concentration, the higher the voltage. Therefore, the concentration of the plant is the key for the voltage.
The hydrogel medium performed the best in terms of keeping the moisture for the plant to grow.
We put these parameters into practice to produce a voltage of 4.42V and a current for 1.73A. And this is sufficient to power the GPS module based on our previous calculations. The production of this power is demonstrated through the lit LED.