Fish that resemble eels from the Orinoco and Amazon basins can behave as bioelectric galvanic cells, delivering substantial jolts of ~500 volts at ~1 amp to stun prey. Ever-resourceful scientists at Columbia’s Lenfest Energy Center incorporate bioelectric galvanism into the genetic makeup of pineapples. Lenfest pineapples, having no predatory requirements, are genetically engineered to produce a continuous sustained trickle of current [20 milliamps] at only 10 volts once the plant has reached electrical maturity after 1 year and as long as the plant remains warm enough [~> 40F] that respiratory metabolism does not become dormant. Electrical energy can be harvested through conducting wires that sample the 10 V electrical potential between a stake in the root system of the pineapple plant and an electrode stuck into the conductive pulp within the crown of the plant. Plants typically occupy loosely a volume that is roughly a meter-edged cube, reach fruiting maturity in ~3 years, and produce fruit for ~3 years before replanting is required. It is your job to evaluate this bioengineering development by answering the following questions.
1) What advantages would the transfer of the bioelectric capability from fish to pineapples have as far as energy resources are concerned?
2) Compute the implied efficiency of the Lenfest pineapple at producing electric energy and compare it to the efficiency of a typical photovoltaic cell with comment upon the reasonableness of the comparison.
3) What other issues distinguish solar photovoltaic from bioelectric power generation?
4) Besides supplying electric energy, pineapples supply biomass. What are the relative sizes of the electric and biomass energy resources represented by pineapples? State the assumptions and/or estimates used in your calculations.
5) How large an area of pineapple plantation would be needed to supply the energy needs of a typical US resident? The typical electric energy needs of a US resident? For all US residents? State assumptions for your calculations.
6) What impact could Lenfest pineapples have upon carbon management?
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