This computer ran on algae power alone for 6 months
Scientists have succeeded in powering a microprocessor for months thanks to the energy generated by algae. This kind of progress, still at the margins, is very encouraging for a world dependent on polluting energies. What if tomorrow, small everyday connected objects were powered by plants?
When we talk to you about algae, you may only imagine the slimy plants that cling to your ankles during walks in the sea. From today, you will also think of this microcomputer that scientists managed to run for six months with nothing but algae.
These researchers from the University of Cambridge published on May 12, 2022 an extract from their study entitled “ use photosynthesis to power a microprocessor “.
“ The system, which is the size of an AA battery, contains a type of non-toxic algae called Synechocystis, which naturally harvests energy from the sun through photosynthesis. The small electric current thus generated then interacts with an aluminum electrode and is used to power a microprocessor “, can we read.
The object (pictured below) is therefore a kind of small battery, inside which algae photosynthesis takes place, which creates energy. Unlike a battery, however, this little capsule not only stores energy, but generates it. ” Our photosynthetic apparatus does not discharge like a battery, because it continuously uses light as its energy source. “, adds Professor Christopher Howe, one of the senior authors of the study.
This “battery” of a few centimeters is fed by algae // Source: University of Cambridge
Algae for energy: how does it work, and for what use?
What could these little “batteries” of photosynthesis be used for? According to the authors, it would be a complementary solution to supply “ a very large number of small objects », especially since the advent of the Internet Of Things – the multiplication of everyday connected objects that were not connected before, but are now.
For this experiment, the researchers powered an Arm Cortex M0+ microprocessor, a type of microcomputer that is used in small everyday connected objects, such as watches. The Arm company also participated in this research, built and supplied the processor.
The (summary) diagram of the connections made by the researchers // Source: University of Cambridge
The battery-algae system allowed the microprocessor to operate for six months, in a quiet environment, in front of a window, in daylight. ” We were impressed with how smoothly the system worked over a long period — we thought it might stop after a few weeks, but it kept going. “said Dr. Paolo Bombelli in a press release.
The “IRL” version of the schema
What if tomorrow, small everyday objects (watches, motion detectors, smoke detectors) were fed not by polluting batteries, but by small capsules of algae? The Cambridge academics believe in it, arguing that, in any case, the lithium, today used for batteries, will never be in sufficient quantity in the world to be able to power all future everyday objects.
This article by Oliver Adey for gettotext “News, Healthy life, beauty, family and actual articles”