How to power an FM radio using moss

If you love listening to music as much as you love this green Earth, then you’re going to be head over heels for this project.

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A British biochemist and a product designer worked together to build an FM radio powered by biological solar panels that incorporate moss.

In layman’s terms—it’s a radio powered by a plant.

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University of Cambridge biochemist Paolo Bombelli collaborated with London-based product designer Fabienne Felder to develop Moss FM. They say that in addition to their technology being the first plant-powered radio, it’s also the first functional moss-powered device that requires more electricity than an LCD screen.

“Moss FM is a biological solar panel,” said Bombelli in an interview with BBC Radio 4. “In the same way that the solar panels harnesses the energy of light and delivers electrical power, Moss FM it does it by using biological material.”

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While it might look like an elementary school science project, the device is actually a bit complicated. A frame holds 10 moss pots which are all connected to form, more or less, a “photo microbial fuel cell”. The biochemical process that takes place in this fuel cell harnesses the electrons and protons produced by the photosynthesizing plants, and turns them into electrical current.

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At the moment, the moss plants generate a potential of more than 4.5 volts The first time the radio powered up, it was able to play for a full 80 seconds. While moss was chosen because it’s cheap and easy on the eyes, the bio-radio duo said that other plants and algae can be used. They plan on exploring this, and also seeing if they can increase the amount of power generated.

See the radio in action below: