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bioPVs: September 9, 2014

Installed at the Valldaura campus of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, the Bio-Photovoltaic Paneling System has sensors that display its status, whilst making it self-sufficient.

The bacteria is fed through by-products from the photosynthesis of plants, and by introducing an anode and cathode (battery) into the soil, the free electrons can be extracted and put into the circuit.

Each of the components that form the BPV have certain parameters that may be changed to control the processes and efficiency of the output – the type of plant that grows, whether its edible or decorative, the soil characteristics that enable microbial growth, the type of soil that makes the electron transfer, and the battery’s materials and composition all help to determine the efficiency for the way the electrons are gathered and transferred.

The maximum voltage had to be conserved, while at the same time allowing enough space for the plant’s roots to grow. To achieve both results, a Voronoi tessellation was applied, which allowed for the cells to contain the batteries and keep the triangular proportion, while giving the plant more volume to spread it’s roots.

The final one incorporates an automation system that controls the irrigation and a data logger to monitor the variables that affect the plant’s growth. A customised design was also developed where the user can create his/her own panel design and send it to be fabricated. The fabrication procedure consists of milling the panel in polystyrene and applying coats of rubber and epoxy resin to stiffen and waterproof it. Afterwards, the wiring and electronics are assembled and the soil and moss placed. Finally, the finishing is laser cut and glued to the exposed surfaces. An Arduino is powered by the batteries and controls the sensors for the data and water pump of the irrigation.

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