The energy industry is constantly evolving, sometimes yielding surprising results. As current sources of energy are running out, mankind has been pushed into top gear to find new and 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 it has its limits and solar energy needs to be met from other sources. Researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK may have discovered the answer using algae. They have operated a microprocessor for more than six months using nothing more than a common species of cyanobacteria, called Synechocystis.
Researchers say their system has potential as a reliable and renewable way of powering small devices. Harvesting energy from the non-toxic alga Synechocystis naturally sun through photosynthesis. The small amount of electric current generated during this process interacts with an aluminum electrode and is used to power a microprocessor.
Researchers said in a Statement That system uses inexpensive and largely reusable materials, meaning it can easily be replicated hundreds of thousands of times to power a large number of small devices. This has the potential to be highly useful in remote locations.
The study’s joint senior author, Professor Christopher Howe from Cambridge, said the growing Internet of Things requires an increasing amount of electricity, which will have to come from systems that can generate energy, rather than just store it. “Our photosynthetic device doesn’t run down like a battery because it’s constantly using light as an energy source,” he said.
But what if there is no sunshine for long periods of time – in the polar regions or during the harsh winter months? The device that generates current as a result of photosynthesis can continue to produce electricity in periods of darkness as the algae process some of its food when there is no light, the researchers said.
has studied published in the magazine Energy and environmental science.
The system holds promise because it is impractical to churn out lithium-ion batteries to power everyday electronic items.