Why does moss generate electricity?

There are thousands of known species of mosses. They can be found under a hedge in our backyard, but also near the polar regions, in the humid tropics, on a driveway, a fallen log, near lakes, rivers and ponds. Moss can be found almost everywhere on earth except in the salty waters of the ocean. There is for example hardly any moss on a beach. Did you know that this simple plant, with no leaves, stems or roots, that grows even under the most barren conditions, can be used to generate electricity?

If you discover a patch of moss in the garden that has turned brown or black, it may appear to be completely dead, but if you pour a little bit of water over it then a miracle will happen. The moss resurrects. The plant will turn fresh green and it will begin thrive again. Moss can demonstrate this resurrective power  again and again! It also uses its tiny threads to attach itself to the hardest rocks and stones, where it can live of almost nothing. Is it this pure will to live that allows it to generate so much extra electricity?

During photosynthesis, plants create surplus protons and electrons. Mosses convert fewer of them into sugars for growth, as they are slow and low growing. It now seems that this is the reason why moss produces more electricity then it needs for its own growth and maintenance. But then, there are the questions; why are mosses doing this? What is the purposes of this extra energy? Are they using it to communicate? Is the electromagnetic moss-language still a plant language that is waiting to be discovered?

Instead of trying to answer these questions scientists decided to take the energy as a waste product to power devices. The first device that was powered was a radio. The ‘Moss-FM’ is the world’s first plant-powered radio. It was developed by the designer Fabienne Felder, with support from scientists Paolo Bombelli and Ross Dennis. The radio runs entirely on energy produced by moss. Ten pots of moss produce about 25 microampere at 4.5 volts, enough to charge a battery that allows Moss FM to run anywhere on the planet.

Since the invention of ‘Moss-FM’, more applications of moss energy have become available, like ‘the moss solar panel’: