Researchers at the University of Cambridge have managed to run a computer for six months, using blue-green algae as a power source.
Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, a type of blue-green algae, which gives oxygen through photosynthesis when exposed to sunlight, was sealed in a small container, roughly the size of an AA battery, made of aluminum and clear plastic.The study has been published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.
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Christopher Howe of the University of Cambridge and his colleagues argue that similar photoynthetic power generators might be the source of power for a wide spectrum of small devices in the future, without the need for the rare and unsustainable materials used in batteries.
During the lockdown period due to COVID-19 in 2021, the computer was placed on a windowsill at one of the researchers'' houses, and remained there for six months, from February to August.
The battery made of blue-green algae has provided a constant current across its anode and cathode that ran a microprocessor.
The computer was able to calculate sums of consecutive integers as part of a computational workload, which required 0.3 microwatts of power and a 15-minute standby, which required 0.24 microwatts.
The microcontroller analyzed the device''s actual output and stored it in the cloud for researchers to analyze.
Howe suggests that there are two possibilities for the power source: either the bacteria itself produces electrons, which generates a current, or it creates conditions in which an aluminum anode in the container is corroded in a chemical reaction that produces electrons.
The experiment ended without causing any significant degradation of the anode, and because of that, the researchers believe that the bacteria is responsible for the bulk of the current.
Further research is needed
Howe advises that the approach might be broadened, but that further research is required to discover how far the steps will go. He explains that putting one on your roof will not provide enough electricity for your house in rural areas of low and middle-income countries, especially in applications where a small amount of energy might be beneficial, such as environmental sensors or charging a mobile phone.
During photosynthesis, the bacteria creates its food, and the battery can continue producing power during periods of darkness. The researchers believe this is possible because they alter surplus foods.
Researchers believe that effective devices may be used inexpensively, and commercial applications will be possible within five years.
A number of algae have been discovered in the area.
Alge will be used as a living energy source in the near future, as well as machines used as batteries in the Matrix.
To power the network of electronic devices known as the Internet of Things, energy consumption is modest, from W to mW, but the number of Internet of Things devices is expected to increase to one trillion by 2035, owing to a large number of portable energy sources (e.g., solar, temperature, and vibration). Batteries are long lasting but may have harmful effects on the environment (e.g., hazardous chemicals are used in photovoltaics). A bio-photovoltaic energy harvester whose blades