I'm working on a tidally locked world. I would like to have some life in the dark side of the world. The sun heats all the air on one side of the planet and winds high in the atmosphere transport it to the dark side of the planet where the air cools, drops and reverses flow back to the hot side. That means you get very strong winds towards the sun side at/near the surface.

Could plants use this wind energy by employing a wing or rotor like mechanism to harvest the wind to create mechanical energy and convert this to chemical energy and make glucose from that?

Obviously a continuously spinning rotor might be impossible to create because no vascular connection is possible. I also thought that the rotor could spin for a couple of revolutions, thereby twisting its attachment point, then change geometry and using the attachment point like a spring to get back to the starting position. Or maybe a wing like structure, working in reverse to bird wings to extract energy rather than provide propulsion. But then how do you transform movement to chemical energy? Something like muscle tissue but working in reverse? Let me know if you have any ideas and how plausible this is.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think your rotor could work, but perhaps the stem flexing in the wind could be a mechanism for your plant to take advantage of the Piezoelectric Effect. $\endgroup$ May 20, 2018 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ I think I've seen this question about 20 times already, the answer is always "no". It's simply never efficient enough to compensate for the costs. However several plans already utilize wind power, check out en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anemophily for example $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    May 20, 2018 at 12:04
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    $\begingroup$ Self governing rotors and a stem bending pumping mechanism are both structurally possible but you can't do anything useful with them, the reality is that osmotic pressure is more than sufficient to move water from ground to leaf and the processes for energy storage in plants are finely tuned chemical reactions that need no further energy inputs. Pollen and seeds can take advantage of wind to spread far from their parent plants but that's about all the use plants have for wind power. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    May 20, 2018 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash I don't propose that the plants use the mechanical action to do work, I mean the movement of the plant could substitute the sun as an energy source. $\endgroup$
    – nAUTILUS
    May 20, 2018 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ @nAUTILUS Yup like I said no point, and it wouldn't work anyway, you couldn't get anything like enough voltage to do the job. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    May 20, 2018 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


Your plant equivalents could turn motion into electrical charge via piezoelectricity.


Piezoelectricity is the electric charge that accumulates in certain solid materials (such as crystals, certain ceramics, and biological matter such as bone, DNA and various proteins in response to applied mechanical stress. The word piezoelectricity means electricity resulting from pressure and latent heat. It is derived from the Greek πιέζειν piezein, which means to squeeze or press, and ἤλεκτρον ēlektron, which means amber, an ancient source of electric charge.

https://contest.techbriefs.com/2014/entries/sustainable-technologies/4092 piezoelectricity schematic

Your wind plants would use piezoelectricity to concentrate charge in a small area. Ions then move into / out of that area in response to charge differential, and this movement can be harnessed to generate ATP. This is how chloroplasts work, using sunlight to split water and produce charge differential.


The trick will be to harness wind energy captured on a large scale (by flexing stems?) to produce charge and generate ATP. Mitochondria and chloroplasts are little but maybe the energy generating organs of these plants would be considerably larger. Given that many piezoelectric substances are crystalline, the energy organs of your dark wind plants might be jewels.

  • $\begingroup$ Trouble is this works only once per bending of the plant stem. You need continuous (or repetitive) motion to transform an external force into energy. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    May 20, 2018 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Karl: The nice thing about wind in this context is that it usually waxes and wanes to some degree. An elastic wooden branch bent by a gust of wind will then spring back when the wind force subsides. An organism which harnessed wind energy could be in a fractal ramifying shape: the finest ramifications deform and spring back with the lightest winds, with larger branches capturing stronger winds, and the trunk itself capturing the strongest wind. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    May 20, 2018 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ That would be extremely inefficient. You need some mechanism in the plant that lets the branches wiggle at the highest possible rate. Every bending can only give a certain amount of energy. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    May 21, 2018 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Karl - at 1.5%, photosynthesis sets a pretty low bar for efficiency. But any % of available energy captured is still captured. Metabolism can slow to the point that captured energy is enough. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    May 21, 2018 at 22:57
  • $\begingroup$ I'm aware of the 1.5%. This would be much worse. In those high winds, your plant needs a lot of energy to build and repair. Slow metabolism works in the deep sea and other calm places. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    May 22, 2018 at 5:25

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