Researchers at the University of Cambridge (Cambridge) have used a widespread species of blue-green algae to power a microprocessor continuously for a year, so far, using nothing but ambient light and water. Their system has potential as a reliable and renewable way to power small devices.
Comparable in size to an AA battery, the system contains non-toxic Synechocystis algae which naturally harvests energy from the sun through photosynthesis. The tiny electrical current generated then interacts with an aluminum electrode and is used to power a microprocessor.
“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, joint senior author of the paper.
The work was a collaboration between Cambridge and Arm, a company leading the design of microprocessors. Arm Research developed the ultra-efficient Arm Cortex M0+ test chip, built the board, and set up the data-collection cloud interface presented in the experiments. The research was funded by the National Biofilms Innovation Centre.
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