June 29, 2022

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Scientists create a computer for algae powered by photosynthesis

Scientists create a computer for algae powered by photosynthesis

Scientists use algae to generate energy Low power computer chip for six months.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge sealed a colony of cyanobacteria, known as blue-green algae, inside a metal container the size of an AA battery. Then the unit was left on the windowsill, he said new worldAnd Where the algae performs photosynthesis, generating a small current of electricity that powers the ARM Cortex-M0+ chip.

The system is only a proof of concept, but its creators hope that algae-powered chips can be used in future IoT devices. They say the advantage of using algae over traditional batteries or solar energy is that it has a lower environmental impact and can provide continuous power.

“The growing Internet of Things needs an increasing amount of energy, and we believe this should come from systems that can generate energy, rather than store it like batteries,” said Professor Christopher Howe, senior author of the paper. a press release. “Our photosynthetic apparatus does not work the way a battery does because it is constantly using light as an energy source.”

An algae-powered ARM chip was used for very basic calculations, during which it consumed 0.3 microwatts per hour, according to reports. new world. Although the power usage of average computers varies based on factors such as workload and age, this is a fraction of the electricity needed to power an average computer. If a typical desktop computer consumes, say, 100 watts of power per hour, it would need roughly 333 million algae “batteries” to power it.

It is clear that the researchers behind the project will need to scale their solutions, but they say the core qualities of the algae’s energy generation are cause for optimism. They say the algae they used did not need to be fed, were gathering all their energy from natural sunlight, and were able to continue producing energy at night based on energy stored during the day.

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“We were impressed by how well the system had worked over a long period of time – we thought it might stop after a few weeks, but it has,” said Dr. Paolo Bombelli, the paper’s first author, in a press release. .

Although using algae in this way is certainly unusual, it is also part of a growing research area known asphotovoltaic cells. “The goal of this field is to harness the energy generated by biological microorganisms that naturally convert light into electricity through the process of photosynthesis.

Although the process is highly inefficient, with plants absorbing only 0.25 percent of sunlight energy (compared to the 20 percent absorbed in solar panels), advocates say PV systems may be cheap to produce and environmentally friendly. They envision that in the future, giant ‘lily pads’ floating on water could be wrapped in algae to function as mobile power stations alongside offshore wind farms.