In 2011, designers in collaboration with the University of Cambridge introduced us to the idea of mosses generating electricity. I went on to study mosses in more detail to demonstrate additional benefits of these undervalued plants. As it happens, they are an excellent material for interior design (further development on this happened in a later project creating a moss surface). They work as insulators, exhibit anti-fungal properties, raise oxygen levels through photosynthesis, increase air humidity, and create a generally calming ambience. Not to mention, they are gorgeous to touch.
To exemplify these benefits, an extreme environment has been chosen: the aircraft cabin. One of few extremely cramped spaces we enter voluntarily. Research has demonstrated undeniably low humidity and increased CO2 levels in cabins. And flight anxiety can contribute to passengers’ discomfort.
Mosses are photoautotrophs, which are easy to handle – they need very little soil and light, are resilient to environmental changes and in particular very desiccation tolerant. All in all moss is little green powerhouse.
Air quality: becomes a peculiar factor in an extreme environment such as a flight cabin. Even in first class, where the leg-room may be be luxurious, but the air is still second class, as has been shown by an extensive body of research. Particular issues are increased carbon dioxide levels as well as uncomfortably low humidity. Under the right circumstances just a few hundred grams of moss can produce the entire amount of oxygen a passenger needs to breathe, thus increasing the quality of cabin air significantly. Plus, what is termed “plant sweating” would raise humidity levels.
Wellbeing: moss is fantastically calming to look at and rich and soothing to touch. In high-stress environments, a green interior can therefore contribute to an overall sense of tranquility. Most types of moss are furthermore practically non-allergenic.
And finally, electricity generation: Plant power might be the power source of the future, using plants’ natural capacity to turn light and carbon dioxide into energy and oxygen through photosynthesis. Potentially the holy grail of sustainability. Although this technology will mature only in a few years, practical applications have already been demonstrated. And with the arrival of low-consumption gadgets, your laptop or screen may well soon be powered by a plant.