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PowerPlant
Popular Science, New York
  • Year
  • 2004
  • Type
  • Concept
Overview

We were asked by Popular Science Magazine to create a “technological CARE package for the 21st century” for a “community in need” of our choice. Opting to make our proposal a commentary piece, we elected to design something to help “recovering addicts of conspicuous consumption”. We reversed the common notion of a typical care package, providing care to its recipient, into a care package requiring the recipient to take care of it, before it can provide a benefit to the user. The whole process is a therapeutic and educational effort.

The PowerPlant combines genetic engineering and fuel cell technology into a windowsill power station. In a small terrarium, the user nurtures a tree that has been genetically engineered for rapid growth, compact size and high leaf density. Once sufficiently grown, the user is chopping the tree into small pieces with the cutting module, then mixing the pieces with water and leaving them to decay for at least a month with the processing module. Finally, the micro fuel cell power plant module produces electricity directly from the methane gas given off during decomposition.The electricity produced is stored in rechargeable batteries that can run a small electronic gadget. Then the cycle can begin anew with a small tree seedling.

The concept illustrates the notion that humans must care for something, must make trade-offs and sacrifices and must be patient in order to get a benefit. The ultimate benefit of the PowerPlant is not necessarily the electricity, but rather the psychological effect of the process, which makes the consumer aware of what it takes to produce something that is so easily consumed, bringing to mind the question of what’s worth the effort.The “felling of the tree” is a very symbolic act of sacrifice.

Press & Awards
Popular Science
Design Challenge 2004, Power Plant, July 2004