All-Powerful Algae

Don’t forget to water your … computer?!?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Most of the electricity we use comes from fossil fuels. . . and that’s not good for our warming planet. Is there another way?

Indeed! For truly GREEN energy, how about plants? Turns out, photosynthesis – the way plants make food – also makes electricity, too! But. . . how much? 

Enter Paolo Bombelli from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. They filled a AA battery-sized container with algae. Then, they hooked it up to a microprocessor. That’s the brain of a computer! When put on a windowsill, the processor turned on. And it STAYED on, thanks to photosynthesis!

The processor was on EVERYDAY for SIX MONTHS! That means the algae inside kept photosynthesizing, rain or shine. Remember, this is in ENGLAND, where it rains all the time! 

We used to think algae-power would require giant tanks and lots of light. But, non-toxic algae can be a compact, GREEN way to power devices.

Hop along, Energizer bunny! We’ve got POWER PLANTS! Literally!

Reference: Bombelli, P., Savanth, A., Scarampi, A., Rowden, S. J. L., Green, D. H., Erbe, A., Årstøl, E., Jevremovic, I., Hohmann-Marriott, M. F., Trasatti, S. P., Ozer, E., & Howe, C. J. (2022). Powering a microprocessor by photosynthesis. Energy & Environmental Science.