Ask NASA Climate | April 19, 2010, 17:00 PDT

Saw it on the grapevine

You say to-mato, I say LED lamp?

Photo courtesy of On/Off by D-vision.
Photo courtesy of On/Off by D-vision.

Mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery. At least that’s how it goes in the technology world. Today’s researchers are developing solar-powered cells that look and behave exactly like plant leaves — they're green, they blow in the wind, and they absorb light and convert it into electrons. Straight from Mother Nature’s textbook.

Now an illuminating new design has come to the table. It’s less a case of mimicking a plant and more a case of harnessing real-life fruit — in this case, tomatoes. Yep, those acidic little yummies are being used to run an LED table lamp called “Still Light.” The lamp, which comes out of d-VISION, an Israeli internship program for Product Development and Industrial Design, hooks up tomatoes to copper and zinc electrodes. The tomatoes act as electrolytes for the current to pass through and help power the LED. Like all good things, it comes to an end — when the tomatoes eventually rot. This isn’t nature’s solution to our energy problems. But it is a cool new design and might help spur on the next generation of tomato technology.