“The possible scale of this impact is really exciting,” said lead researcher Dr Michael Harbottle from Cardiff University. Euronews green. “Seeing something really new, maybe having a big impact, is what drives us.”
Harbottle had the first thought after reading about a chemically powered concrete battery, and he wondered if an organic method might not have more to offer.
Researchers at Cardiff University are already using an abundant natural resource, similar to sand and water batteries, to help solve the problem of storing renewable energy.
How would underground energy storage work?
The object of Harbottle’s research is still conceptual. But he was not the first to recognize the potential of the soil in this way.
There are many examples of people successfully carrying out experiments by simply adding soil to a jar, adding a few electrodes and connecting them, claims the scientist.
The idea is to stimulate particular microorganisms in the soil by using buried electrodes to receive electricity from solar panels.
“If you make energy available to microorganisms, they will somehow use it to survive,” Harbottle explained.
“Like providing food, if you provide electrical energy, some organisms can use it to perform electrosynthesis, where they synthesize [combine] carbon-based molecules from carbon dioxide.”