A team led by Concordia University engineering professor Muthukumaran Packirisamy describe their new invention as a power cell that harnesses electrical energy from the photosynthesis and respiration of blue-green algae.
Packirisamy explains, “Both photosynthesis and respiration, which take place in plant’s 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.”
You may wonder why plants and blue green algae? Because the algae are already practically everywhere and energy is already there.
Also known as cyanobacteria, blue-green algae are the most prosperous microorganisms on earth, evolutionarily speaking. They occupy a broad range of habitats across all latitudes. And they’ve been here from the start: the planet’s early fauna and flora owe their makeup to cyanobacteria, which produced the oxygen that ultimately allowed higher life forms to flourish.
Packirisamy said, “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.”
He notes that the invention is still in its early stages. “We have a lot of work to do in terms of scaling the power cell to make the project commercial.”
Currently, the photosynthetic power cell exists on a small scale, and consists of an anode, cathode and proton exchange membrane. The cyanobacteria or blue green algae are placed in the anode chamber.
As they undergo photosynthesis, the cyanobacteria release electrons to the electrode surface. An external load is connected to the device to extract the electrons and harness power.
This photosynthetic power cell of an anode, cathode and proton exchange membrane with an anode chamber filled with of cyanobacteria releases electrons to the electrode surface from a redox agent that is present at the cathode. An external load is connected to extract the electrons. The fabricated cell could produce an open circuit voltage of 993 mV and a power density of 36.23 µW/cm2.
As Packirisamy and his team develop and expand the project, he hopes that the micro photosynthetic power cells will soon be used in various applications, such as powering cell phones and computers. And maybe one day they’ll power the world.
Its an astonishing development. It makes one wonder when another research project will seek the most electron producing plants beyond the abundant algae. How far this concept could go is anyone’s guess at a barely born moment.
While the power output isn’t a huge thing, devices are running on lower and lower voltages using fewer and fewer amps. This is a great idea with legs, albeit really tiny, tiny ones.