An AA-battery-sized generator based on algae has powered electronics on an Arm chip for a year

Scientists from the University of Cambridge have developed and tested a miniature algae-based electrical energy generator. A device the size of a conventional AA battery powered an Arm Cortex M0+ IoT controller for about a year. To operate the generator enough room lighting and heat. It does not require maintenance and is absolutely environmentally friendly. As they say: set and forget.

Image Source: Paolo Bombelli

Image Source: Paolo Bombelli

The generator is a small transparent container with water in which scientists have placed a certain type of blue-green algae. The side walls of the aluminum container act as electrodes. Under the influence of light and for some time in the dark, algae start the process of photosynthesis – an electrochemical reaction, during which oxygen is produced from water and carbon dioxide under the influence of light, organic matter grows and free electrons appear. The electron transport system proposed by scientists turned out to be so effective that it was enough to power low-power electronics for a long time.

In an article in the journal Energy & Environmental Science , the researchers said the algae-based generator was monitored for six months, but it continued to work after the experiment and has been going on for more than a year. The generator is maintenance-free and could play an important role in the future as a power source for internet-connected devices. Its power from microwatts to milliwatts is enough for the long-term operation of billions of sensors with a connection to the network – you can’t save enough for such batteries, or you get tired of changing them. The idea is working. It remains to bring it to life.

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