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Forest as factory: An idea by Adam Shephard.

Images: Adam Shephard.

This is an interesting idea that is so removed from typical thinking, it is hard to know if it is even theoretically possible.

“Arbor Force” is an idea that proposes to harness the naturally occurring pressures produced by growing trees as an energy source for industrial production.

Adam Shephard, a British designer has teamed up with engineer Bill Ballard, to devise a machine that can be strapped around a tree, and which harness the forces of the growing tree itself to create hydraulic pressure that can be used in an industrial process. In this case the proof of concept is for an injection moulding system.

Trees have of course been harvested for their wood for centuries. In industrial times, many products such as chemicals and paper come from production on a massive scale that consumes the tree in one way or another. Arbor Force would not damage the tree at all, and in fact, requires it to be alive and healthy.

The idea is not entirely without precedent in the sense that a power infrastructure using hydraulic pressure has been tried before. In the late 19th century the London Hydraulic Power Company built an underground network of high pressure water mains that were used to raise bridges, and even apparently powered the lifts in establishments such as the Dorchester Hotel. The system was powered by coal and steam engines. It started to decline in the early part of the 20th century as electric motors and the electrical industry's associated infrastructure began to superseded it. The system closed in 1977.

Perhaps the time for hydraulic infrastructure has come again?

Gratitude to Design Boom for introducing this project..


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