• Alma Tree Lamp © Theresa Harmanen
  • Alma Tree Lamp © Theresa Harmanen
  • Alma Tree Lamp © Theresa Harmanen

ALMA Tree Lamp

WHAT IF we could retrieve energy directly from nature?
What if we could plug in a lamp directly into a tree and light up our roads, without harming the tree?
What if we could do that by using the energy created during the communication between the soil and the tree?

This project is an exploration into new applications of technology and the potential of natural energy by investigating the possibilities that are here and ahead, through function and form.

The ALMA Tree Lamp

The ALMA Tree Lamp is a concept street lamp to light up paths by harvesting and storing energy from trees. No additional power source is required. The life span of the lamp is equal to the life span of the tree. ALMA stores the energy by using long-lived thin-film batteries that are small in size and contain non-hazardous materials. The harvested energy is used to power LED lights activated by motion sensors. ALMA consists of individual units that can be placed according to the size of the tree.

Inspired by MIT technology

Trees produce energy in the process of maintaining a PH balance beween itself and the soil. The ALMA Tree Lamp is a concept inspired by a tree metabolic energy harvesting technology developed by MIT to send weather data wirelessly. Tree metabolic energy harvesting is a type of bio-energy harvesting. Bioenergy harvesting from trees is achieved by tapping into the trees as self-sustaining power supplies. The energy is created during the communication between the tree and its surrounding soil due to an imbalance in pH between a tree and the soil it grows in.

Voltree has developed a method for harvesting energy from trees. The lifetime of one device is equal to the lifetime of the tree to which it is attached. The device is weather-resistent and completely quiet. The environmental impact for production and operation is minimal. Harvesting energy from the tree is done without harming it. (Source: Voltree and Wikipedia)

Researchers* have explained the PH balancing phenomenon as following:

The voltage generated by the mismatch in pH between xylem and soil could be harvested by such circuits that would act as a low-impact “parasite” on the tree drawing on its metabolism. A clear relationship between the voltage polarity and magnitude and the pH difference between xylem and soil was observed in tests. They attributed these sustained voltages to a biological concentration cell likely set up by the homeostatic mechanisms of the tree.

*Source: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0002963

Thin-film batteries

Thin-film batteries contains no lead or hazardous material for the user or the environment. […] “When coupled with energy-harvesting or energy-scavenging techniques, an EnerChip can supply the energy storage to build self-contained, long-lived powered systems and avoid the use of traditional battery power approaches. (Source: Green Technology World “New: Green, Environmentally Friendly Thin-Film Batteries”). The processing is done by Ultra-Low-Power Microcontrollers.


Date: 2010 Client: Self-driven Skills: Lighting, Product

Head of Design at Smartly. Designer passionate about creating engaging products and experiences. Specialised in designing for health and well-being, and the process of using design as a tool to address social and global issues.

*Due to client confidentiality, some works cannot be published online. Please contact me for more info.*