This algae-powered computer system ran continuously for more than a year

A study of the algae-powered microprocessor titled “Powering a microprocessor by photosynthesis” was published in the journal Energy and Environmental Sciences.

The generalization Synechocyst A species of non-toxic blue-green algae has been used by researchers to power a microprocessor by harnessing photosynthesis. The system is about the size of an AA battery, contains water, and lets in ambient light to aid photosynthesis. Photosynthesis generates a small electrical current which interacts with an aluminum electrode, in turn powering the microprocessor.

The growing Internet of Things needs an increasing amount of energy, and we believe this will need to come from systems that can generate energy, rather than just store it like batteries. Our photosynthetic apparatus does not discharge like a battery, because it continuously uses light as its energy source.“said Professor Christopher Howe of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry, co-lead author of the paper.

The managed device managed to operate for a year and counting and powers an Arm Cortex M0+ microprocessor, found in many Internet of Things (IoT) devices. It was subjected to semi-outdoor conditions with natural light and temperature fluctuations in a domestic environment.

We were impressed with how consistently the system worked over a long period of time – we thought it might stop after a few weeks, but it kept working“said Dr Paolo Bombelli from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry, first author of the paper.

You can read more of the study here.

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