I'm Dreaming of an Eel-Illuminated Christmas

By Eliza Strickland | December 3, 2010 2:28 pm

electric-eelWhen an aquarium in Japan planned their holiday displays for Christmas, they decided to harness the natural talents of one resident: the electric eel. The lights on one small Christmas tree are powered by the eel’s natural electricity, which is picked up by two aluminum panels in the tank that act as electrodes.

The eel-powered Christmas tree has been a fixture at the aquarium for the past few years, but Reuters reports that this year the aquarium broadened its alternative energy experiment by adding a dancing Santa powered by stomping human feet.

As we admire the tree, let’s also take a moment to appreciate Kazuhiko Minawa, the inventor of this marvel and a spokesman for the Enoshima Aquarium. He says in the 2008 video below: “If we could gather all the electric eels from all around the world, we would be able to light up an unimaginably large Christmas tree.” Oh Mr. Minawa, we can imagine it.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

  • pete.d

    800W every time the eel moves? Forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical, unless we’re talking about a burst of electricity just a tiny fraction of a second long (1/100th or shorter, and even that seems generous to me).

    What is the actual sustainable output from an electric eel? “800W” by itself is meaningless.

  • FC360

    That’s a small tree? Would love to see their idea of a big tree then lol

  • Joost Zaal

    You shoulda called it Eelluminated.

  • Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    Good call, Joost. Will you be around for headline consultations in the future?

  • sk8sonh2o

    Let’s sing some Christmas corals !! The tree lights up whenever anyone mentions ‘sushi’.

  • Dave B

    FC360 Said: “That’s a small tree?”

    Not the (conventional) one in the intro few seconds, the one next to the tank.
    Considering average height of young Japanese people, I doubt it’s even 6 feet tall.

  • http://www.vouchercodespy.co.uk/ voucher

    The Earth’s magnetic field is thought to arise from a natural dynamo of circulating currents in the planet’s core.Certain crystals, such as quartz, or evensugar, generate a potential difference across their faces when subjected to external pressure.This phenomenon is known as piezoelectricity, from the Greek piezein(πιέζειν), meaning to press, and was discovered in 1880 byPierre and Jacques Curie. The effect is reciprocal, and when a piezoelectric material is subjected to an electric field, a small change in physical dimensions take place.


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