Algae can power small electronics, researchers say

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The energy industry is constantly evolving, sometimes yielding astonishing results. As current energy sources run out, humanity has been pushed into high gear to find new reliable sources to sustain life as we know it today. One of the most promising developments has been a renewed effort to harness solar energy. But there are limits and solar energy must be supplemented by other sources. Researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK may have found the answer using seaweed. They powered a microprocessor for more than six months using nothing more than a common species of cyanobacteria, called synechocystis.

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The researchers said their system has the potential to be a reliable, renewable way to power small devices. The non-toxic algae synechocystis naturally harvests energy from the sun through photosynthesis. The small amount of electrical current generated, during the process, interacts with an aluminum electrode and is used to power a microprocessor.

The researchers said in a statement that the system uses materials that are inexpensive and widely recyclable, meaning it could be easily replicated hundreds of thousands of times to power large numbers of small devices. It is likely to be very useful in remote locations.

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Professor Christopher Howe of Cambridge, co-lead author of the study, said the growth of the Internet of Things requires an increasing amount of energy, which will need to come from systems capable of generating energy, rather than just store it. “Our photosynthetic apparatus does not discharge like a battery, because it continuously uses light as its energy source,” he added.

But what if there is no sunlight for long periods – in polar regions or during harsh winter months? The researchers said the device, which produces power through photosynthesis, can continue to produce power during periods of darkness because the algae processes some of its food when there is no light. from light.

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The study was published in the journal Energy and environmental sciences.

This system is promising because it is impractical to continue producing lithium-ion batteries to power everyday electronic devices.

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