The battery powered by algae powers the microprocessor for 6 months

Photo: Paolo Bombelli | CC 3.0

Using only water, light and a species called non-toxic algae Synecocystis, Researchers at the University of Cambridge were able to generate continuous energy to the microprocessor for 6 months. Developed systems have the potential to be a reliable and renewable way to power small devices.

With the size of AA batteries, the equipment uses simple and affordable materials, in addition to being recyclable. With these features, it can be mass-produced and helps bring electrical energy into a large number of devices – increasing demand.

Energy is generated by the photosynthesis of algae, which produces a small electric current used by the aluminum electrode, which can power the microprocessor. Although photosynthesis is dependent on light, this device can generate energy in the dark.

Researchers believe that in the absence of light, algae process some energy and continue to generate electric current.

Algae battery
Christopher Howe and Paolo Bombelli, the scientists who coordinated the project. Photo: Paolo Bombelli | CC 3.0

According to scientists, this discovery could be especially useful in off-grid conditions or in remote areas, where a small amount of energy can be very beneficial.

“The Internet of Things has led to a growing demand for energy, and we believe it should come from systems that can generate energy, rather than just being stored as batteries,” said Christopher Howe, a professor of biochemistry. From Cambridge University, co-senior author of the article.

“Our photosynthetic devices do not work like batteries because they constantly use light as a source of energy,” explains Christopher.

Tested and approved

In a Cambridge team experiment, the device generated energy for the widely used microprocessor, the Arm Cortex M0 +. The microprocessor operated in indoor and semi-outdoor environments at natural light and different temperatures, and after six months of continuous energy production, the test was considered successful and the results were published in the journal. Energy and environmental sciences.

The equipment generated about 4 microwatts of energy per square centimeter and gave the microprocessor 45 minutes, followed by a 15 minute break.

Algae battery
Photo: Paolo Bombelli | CC 3.0

The first author of the study, Paolo Bombelli of the Department of Biochemistry at Cambridge University, said:

Viable solution

Billions of devices are part of the Internet of Things, a growing network of devices that collect and share data in real time using low-cost computer chips and wireless networks.

Each device uses a small amount of energy to operate, but given that the number of devices could reach trillions by 2035, finding a portable power source will be a challenge.

For Cambridge researchers, using lithium-ion batteries requires three times the annual production of lithium worldwide. And traditional photovoltaic devices are made with materials with negative environmental impact. Algae-powered batteries are the first step in developing a viable solution to this problem.

Photo: iStock

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