Researchers power microprocessor using algae energy

It may seem strange that algae (algae) can power an electronic device. Cambridge researchers recently powered a microprocessor continuously for over a year using a common type of blue-green algae (Synechocystis), supplying them with light and water. They suggest that algae may be able to provide power to small devices.

This is how it works:

Some benefits of seaweed, according to the researchers:

● Because algae use light as an energy source to produce a small electric current, they do not “run out” like batteries.

● Systems for using algae to generate power can be made from “common, inexpensive and widely recyclable materials” according to the researchers, Paulo Bombelli et al., who developed the test device. Its primary use is considered to be off-grid or in remote locations where only a small amount of power is needed anyway.

● Researchers note that as the number of small devices in the world (the Internet of Things) approaches one trillion by 2035, the demand for lithium will be three times greater than the supply, not to mention the environmental damage caused by using batteries made with hazardous materials.

“The growth of the Internet of Things requires an increasing amount of energy, and we believe this will need to come from systems that can generate energy, rather than just store it like batteries,” said Professor Christopher Howe from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry. co-lead author of the article…

In the experiment, the device was used to power an Arm Cortex M0+, which is a microprocessor widely used in Internet of Things devices. It was operated in a domestic environment and in semi-outdoor conditions under natural light and associated temperature fluctuations, and after six months of continuous power generation, the results were submitted for publication.

Jacqueline Garget/Research newsAlgae-Powered Computing: Scientists Create Reliable, Renewable Biological Photovoltaic Cell” to University of Cambridge (May 12, 2022)

For now, of course, this is just one demonstration project:

The cyanobacteria system is not yet powerful enough to run all the devices. A desktop computer would need 333,000,000 algae batteries to function normally, reports James Vincent for The Verge. But the authors say the system could be extended, although knowing how far would require more research. p1 “Put one on your roof will not provide power to your home at this point. Much more needs to be done on this front,” Howe told New Scientist. “But [it could work] in rural areas of low- and middle-income countries, for example, in applications where a small amount of energy can be very useful, such as environmental sensors or mobile phone charging.

Margaret OsborneResearchers use seaweed to power a computer for months” to Smithsonian Magazine (May 17, 2022) The paper requires a fee or subscription.

Interestingly, the algae continue to produce a current in the dark. Researchers suspect the algae process some of their food in the dark; thus, the power supply is not interrupted.

Incidentally, algae and other marine plants provide about 50% of all oxygen we breathe through photosynthesis.


You can also read:

Could the carbon calculation make computers more environmentally friendly? As a key component of life forms, carbon is abundant and energy efficient. Carbon-based computing uses much less energy than silicon-based computing, just like a human brain, with as many connections as the Internet, uses much less energy. (November 2020)

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