This algae-powered computer has been running for over a year

The device you’re reading this article on right now probably uses a lithium-ion battery. While this technology is great for doing things like reading well-written scientific papers, it comes at a high price, in limited supply, and has a disastrous impact on our environment.

That’s why scientists are looking for a renewable and environmentally friendly way to power our devices, and one such attempt involves algae. (Yes, the green stuff that grows in water.)

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have created a computer powered entirely by the aquatic plant and even kept it running for over a year. In a new study published Thursday in the journal Energy and Environmental Sciencesthe team used a common species of blue algae known as synechocyte which draws its electricity from the sun through photosynthesis. The small electrical current created by this process was then routed to an electrode, which powered a microprocessor.

This system, containing blue-green algae, powered a microprocessor continuously for a year using only ambient light and water.

PAOLO BOMBELLI

Over the course of a year, the algae-powered computer (about the size of an AA battery) sat in a semi-outdoor environment with lots of sunlight. There, he repeated a simple mathematical operation over and over again in order for the researchers to prove the concept. Interestingly, the device even worked at night since algae are able to process food when it is dark.

Due to the device’s tiny size and ability to generate a small amount of electricity, researchers believe it has a wide range of applications, such as being a viable power supply for preppers and campers. They also think it could be useful in the future as the world grapples with a shortage of lithium-ion batteries that has crippled the tech industry, leading to widespread supply chain issues with products such as electric cars, cell phones and laptops.

“I imagine a future where this technology could be a power source for small electronic devices located off-grid, perhaps also in remote locations,” said Paolo Bombelli, postdoctoral researcher in biochemistry at the University of Cambridge. and lead author of the article. , told The Daily Beast via email. He later added: “In my futuristic vision, I could foresee [having] algae-powered charging stations for cell phones located in remote locations instead of charging cars in our cities.

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