University of Cambridge Algae Computer
Photo credit: Paolo Bombelli
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have created an algae-powered computer that has been running continuously for 6-months. It’s comparable to an AA battery and contains a type of non-toxic algae called Synechocystis that naturally harvests energy from the sun through photosynthesis. The algae generates a tiny electrical current that then interacts with an aluminum electrode to power a microprocessor.


University of Cambridge Algae Computer
Sure, an algae-powered computer may not be practical, but it paves the way for eco-friendly systems in the future. This one is made from common, inexpensive and largely recyclable materials, making it easy to replicate hundreds of thousands of times to power large numbers of small devices as part of the Internet of Things (IoT). In the future, researchers see this being the most useful in off-grid situations or remote locations, where only small amounts of power are required. One example would be the Living Street Map, which is powered entirely by photosynthesis.

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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. Our photosynthetic device doesn’t run down the way a battery does because it’s continually using light as the energy source,” said Christopher Howe, Professor in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry.