If a potato can power a clock…

…then a tree can power a forest-fire deterrent system. At least, so says Discover magazine and a group of MIT scientists who’ve started a “tree power” company:

Working with the U.S. Forest Service, Voltree has created cheap sensors that use tree power to monitor temperature and humidity conditions inside forests. The goal is to give forest managers and firefighters better tools to predict and monitor fires.

Mershin and Love were initially skeptical of tree power but investigated it anyway. To debunk alternative explanations for the observed electrical charges, Mershin and Love put a potted, four-foot-tall ficus tree into MIT’s copper Faraday cage (which blocks out external static electrical fields), stuck platinum electrodes into the soil and into the tree’s tissue, and turned off the lights.

…A tree living in harsh soil conditions can generate a few hundred millivolts at best.

It’s just a short step from this technology to creating an army of animatronic Ents, isn’t it?

To me, my mecha-Treebeard! MORE POWER! MUHAHAHAHAHA!