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This post about a tidally-locked planet got me thinking about plants and wind.

Let's say plants evolve on a perpetually windy, tidally-locked earth-like planet around a sun-like star at about 1 AU. Obviously, because of the abundance of wind, it'd make sense to take advantage of all the free energy blowing around.

Would it be possible to have a plant that harnesses this kinetic energy as it's main "food" source? If not, what's keeping them from doing so?

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  • $\begingroup$ Can you explain how the process of the sun heating up the world to generate wind currents, which then blow the plant, which then relies on a physical mechanism to convert that energy into chemical energy makes more sense than to harvest the energy of the sun directly? $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Sep 3 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ This is a tidally locked planet with an atmosphere, so one side would be very hot, the other very cold, and the twilight zone a constant storm as the hot air on the day side flows to the night side. These plants would be in the twilight zone to prevent being scorched or frozen. $\endgroup$ – bigyihsuan Sep 3 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ My answer to related question, also using piezoelectricity. worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/112711/… $\endgroup$ – Willk Sep 3 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ Related (possibly duplicate of): worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/122867/… $\endgroup$ – Qami Sep 3 at 19:25
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The plant has small elements in its leaves. When the wind moves the leaves, the elements are strained.

This strain, as consequence of the piezoelectric effect, produces a small charge that is then used to accumulate chemical energy.

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 elements can be quartz (SiO2 can be harvested from the ground) or even dedicated plant proteins, not too different from how chlorophyll is used to absorb light.

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Our plants on earth transform electromagnetic radiation into chemical energy - this is used for growing, propagation, etc. I did not find any direct energy transformation from kinetic energy to chemical energy. See wikipedia. (Which does not mean, that there isn't any.)

So if you insist on the plants using the wind instead of just directly the sun, use indirect transformation. Some ideas:

  • what L.Dutch wrote: kinetic->electric (piezo)->chemical
  • you could create a temperature difference using the wind (warm soil) and use it to transport materials or to create electrical energy or to facilitate different chemical reactions at the different ends of the plant - note that none of these is direct food source
  • or, the sun dries the leaves, which creates a concentration difference inside, and thus moves the water from the bottom to the top
  • you could have some leaves rubbing to each other creating light/heat etc. which still needs to be converted to chemical energy

The most straightforward would be not to use the wind directly, but for:

  • propagation (seeds, pollination, broken branches and leaves, etc.)
  • bring the food to your plants (small animals which are caught and digested, other dead plants, soil)
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