“The possible scale of that impact is really exciting,” lead researcher Dr. Michael Harbottle of Cardiff University told Euronews Green. “To see something that’s really quite novel, possibly having a big impact, is what’s driving us.”
Harbottle first had the thought after reading about a chemically-powered concrete battery, and he questioned whether a biological method would not have more to offer.
Researchers at Cardiff University are already using a plentiful natural resource, similar to sand and water batteries, to help solve the problem of renewable energy storage.
How would storing underground energy work?
The subject matter of Harbottle’s research is still conceptual. But he wasn’t the first to recognize soil’s potential in this way.
There are numerous instances of people successfully conducting experiments by simply adding soil to a jar, adding a few electrodes, and connecting them, the scientist claims.
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’ll use it in some way to survive,” explained Harbottle.
“Just like providing food, if you provide electrical energy, there are organisms who can use that to perform electrosynthesis, where they synthesize [combine] carbon-based molecules from carbon dioxide.”