It's saved Olive Oyl many times; can spinach now prove its wider social use?

Spinach: the good old green stuff. Long encouraged by mothers everywhere; cited as a super-food, magically increasing health, wellbeing, and (as Popeye would testify) strength, it’s now looking as if it will play a role in a more sustainable future. 

If you think of it one way, capturing the photosynthesising, energy-creating power of green leaves seems like an obvious direction in which to throw scientific endeavour. But now it looks like the scientists are making real progress

The clever folk at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have not only managed to combine the complex LCH-II protein found in spinach (wake up!) with synthetics, to make layered sheets, but they have also analysed the material and found that it could be more than just a pretty light-harvesting opportunity. It could be used as the basis for electron transfer, which, with the addition of a catalyst, could actually be an energy source.


It should be pointed out that this wasn’t some fancy spinach grown under special secret Government lab conditions that was used in these tests – it was normal, ordinary spinach from a local market. They were probably meant to be bringing it home for supper. All it will take is a couple more vegetable innovations to give a whole new lease of life to the traditional greengrocer. 

Writing for, Tina Casey is optimistic: 

‘This latest development brings us closer to the possibility of a compact, affordable hydrogen fuel generator that practically anyone could learn how to operate at home. After all, now-ubiquitous devices like the iPad aren’t too many years away from those huge rooms full of outrageously expensive equipment that used to be needed to run a simple computer operation. Saying good-bye to “yesterday’s energy” will be a long process but cleaner, healthier, alternatives are within sight, and it’s time to ask ourselves who really benefits from clinging to the past.’ 

Looking at the quote above, we do fancy we know how to handle our spinach! It’s great that this kind of work is going on to advance the green-tech front line. Here at the Energy Saving Trust, though, we’re big on making sure that new innovations are tested in real homes, and not just labs. So we’ll let you know when the veg-tech field trial is due to begin. And in the meantime, we might just whip up some spinach soup…