Plastic treeNew technology that mimics the branches and leaves of a cottonwood tree can generate electricity with the help of the wind.

Researchers say that the new technology is not meant to be a replacement for wind turbines, but could offer an alternative electricity source for those looking for small, unobtrusive machines to transform wind into energy.

“The possible advantages here are aesthetics and its smaller scale, which may allow off-grid energy harvesting,” says Michael McCloskey, co-author of the study. “We set out to answer the question of whether you can get useful amounts of electrical power out of something that looks like a plant. The answer is ‘possibly,’ but the idea will require further development.”

On top of efficiency and affordability, consumers are also looking for alternative energy technologies to be aesthetically attractive, as demonstrated in Tesla’s solar roof.

According to McCloskey, cell phone towers in urban locations are sometimes camouflaged as trees to offer better aesthetic properties. The researchers believe that towers such as this, which already host fake leaves, could be greatly improved by implementing this technology to tap energy from the leaves and provide further functionality.

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Wind energy has seen a lot of positive momentum over the past few years in a global effort to help facilitate change in the energy infrastructure. With over $100 billion invested in wind energy in 2014 alone, this technology is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. Today we’re celebrating Global Wind Day by looking at the innovation that has happened in this sector and taking a peek at what is yet to come.

Over the years, wind energy has seen some dramatic changes. In the 1980s, California was the hub of all wind energy with 90 percent of the world’s installed wind energy capacity. Now, countries such as China, Germany, Spain, India, and the United States have all shifted a substantial percentage of energy needs toward wind. In just a short 12-year period between 2000 and 2012, wind energy has increased over 16 times to more than 282,000 MW of operating wind capacity.

Scientists across the globe are continuing to tap into this technology in order to produce higher efficiency levels at lower price points. Take a look at the work some of our scientists are doing in the sector:

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