2022-07-05

The photosynthetic device doesn’t run down the way a battery does.

The University of Cambridge researchers have used a kind of non-toxic algae to power a microprocessor for over a year. The only fuel the algae needed was light and water. The system contains algae called Synechocystis that generates tiny electrical current by harvesting energy from the sun. This current interacts with an aluminium electrode to power the microprocessor.

The university said since the system is made from largely recyclable materials, it can be replicated thousands of times to power small devices. It can be used at remote locations where conventional electricity isn’t there.

This system isn’t like batteries as it is a power source in its own rights. While batteries store electricity, this system generates electricity.

“The growing Internet of Things needs an increasing amount of power, and we think this will have to come from systems that can generate energy, rather than simply store it like batteries,” said Professor Christopher Howe in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry, joint senior author of the paper.

“Our photosynthetic device doesn’t run down the way a battery does because it’s continually using light as the energy source,” he added.

In the experiment, the system powered a microprocessor widely used in Internet of Things devices. It powered the device continuously for six months when the paper was given for publication.

Dr Paolo Bombelli in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry, first author of the paper, said the system unexpectedly worked for a long period of time. During the experiment, they had thought it would only work for a few weeks.

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