Mike Schropp of TotalGeekdom has combined technology and the natural world with his modified desktop computer that uses its own heat to grow plants! The compact DIY unit allows the plants — in this instance, wheatgrass — to flourish in an office space with limited sunlight, in what could be considered the very definition of green computing.
Charting his progress of his website, Schropp said of his creation: “I can’t exactly recall when the idea came to me, but at some point I started wanting to use the heat from a computer as a way to warm the soil and help with germination/growth. I’m about as far from a botanist as it comes, I did some reading online and became pretty interested in the effects of soil temperature on germination/growth. I read different studies and papers from various universities. It was not too long into that process that I became hooked on the idea of using computer heat as a way to control the soil temperature of some sort of living plant life.”
Using wheatgrass as a test subject, Schropp essentially hollowed out a computer tower and used a variety of pieces to create a bespoke system. Once the computer parts were found, a section was needed to grow plants in. “I had originally envisioned the grass growing out of the top of the computer case,” Schropp said. “This seemed like it would provide a good blend between the hard edges of the computer and the soft feel of the grass. This also worked well with putting the soil area in the upper portion of the case, where the most heat should collect. After doing some initial tests with this configuration I found the measured temperature near the top of the case was the hottest. The placement of the CPU near the top of the case and the lack of airflow in that area contributed to these higher recorded temps.”
Schropp used acrylic for the top of the case in order “to see the inner workings of the computer and also the soil from the grass growing above”. He also added acrylic tubes in the center of the computer to slightly heat the soil. The tubes not only allowed for more surface area for the soil, but also helped with drainage.
In terms of regulating the temperature, Schropp found it was easiest to control the case temperature by using a variable fan speed control on both the inlet and outlet fans. “By turning the fan speed down I could increase the temperature inside the case and correspondingly raise the soil temperature, ” he noted.
With all the components only adding up to $10, Schropp has created something that not only is eye-catching, but also provides as much wheatgrass as he wants — should he have a hankering for it!
Via Total Geekdom