A power cell that harnesses electrical energy from the photosynthesis and respiration of algae has been developed by researchers from Concordia University in Quebec, Canada.
The power cell uses cyanobacteria, blue-green algae that are able to survive across a broad range of conditions and locations found on Earth.
As they undergo photosynthesis, the cyanobacteria release electrons to the surface of an electrode which is connected to an external load. Devices that are attached to the load can extract the electrons for electrical energy.
Currently, the photosynthetic power cell exists on a small scale and consists of an anode, cathode and proton exchange membrane. The algae are placed in the anode chamber.
Muthukumaran Packirisamy, the professor leading the Concordia team, hopes that the power cells will soon be used in various applications, such as for cell phones and computers and could one day "power the world".
“Both photosynthesis and respiration, which take place in plants cells, involve electron transfer chains. By trapping the electrons released by blue-green algae during photosynthesis and respiration, we can harness the electrical energy they produce naturally,” said Packirisamy.
“By taking advantage of a process that is constantly occurring all over the world, we’ve created a new and scalable technology that could lead to cheaper ways of generating carbon-free energy.”
“We have a lot of work to do in terms of scaling the power cell to make the project commercial,” he admitted.
Bristol University researchers recently unveiled a robot that is designed to swim in dirty water and absorb nutrients found within it, from organisms such as algae, to power its movement.
Scientists have also used bacteria to create a super-strong, lightweight, eco-friendly material called nanocellulose that is stronger than steel and stiffer than Kevlar.