Algae power source runs IoT device processor for a year

Algae power source runs IoT device processor for a year
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have turned to algae as an unlikely source of green energy, successfully for a year.

The University of Cambridge team created an algae energy harvester, using sunlight to power a microprocessor for a year, unassisted. 

Algae can be used as an effective solar cell, converting sunlight into chemical energy, water and carbion dioxide into organic molecules. 

Electrons are created using this same process and can be collected and used to power electronic devices. 

The algae harvester harnessed a species of blue-green algae, Synechocystis that naturally harvests energy from the sun through photosynthes. The algae was placed in a container with water, encompassing the size of an AA battery. 

The electrons were collected by an aluminium electrode, moved out to run an Arm Cortex M0+ microprocessor, which is used in IoT devices. The system is made using largely recyclable materials, and could be replicated hundreds of thousands of times to power large numbers of small IoT devices. 

The researchers foresee the algae-powered devices most useful in off-grid situations or remote locations, where small amounts of power can be beneficial. 

Professor Christopher Howe, department of biochemistry, University of Cambridge, commented: “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. 

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

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