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Researchers have been using algae-based CPUs for months

More and more devices want to be supplied with electricity, which stimulates the development of alternative solutions. Scientists can now report that they powered a processor for months using some sort of algae drive. Light: nothing more.

The size of an AA battery, but powered by the light

How to effectively power the increasing number of small sensors, devices, and other Internet of Things applications? scientists from University of Cambridge now have a very innovative answer to this question, which has already proven itself in everyday life: a system, about the size of an AA battery, in which the algae species “Synechocystis” extracts energy from the sun naturally through photosynthesis. “The small electrical current generated by this then interacts with an aluminum electrode and is used to power a microprocessor,” the researchers say of the setup.

Dr. Paolo Bombelli of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge and the lead author of the study is surprised by the endurance of the system. According to this information, the experiment started with the assumption that the mechanism would probably fail after a few weeks. “We were impressed with how consistently the system worked over a long period of time,” says Bombelli. According to the news scientist, the scientist simply kept the algae drive on his windowsill for six months — including the light and temperature variations.

According to this information, the system was connected to an Arm Cortex M0+ processor, which calculated sums of consecutive integers with a power requirement of 0.3 microwatts in a 45-minute cycle. This was followed by a 15-minute standby cycle at 0.24 microwatts. In six months there was no energy loss – on the contrary: six months later, the system is still doing its job.

IoT will grow fast

“The growing Internet of Things requires more and more energy, and we believe this must come from systems that can generate energy rather than simply store it in batteries,” said Professor Christopher Howe, one of the lead authors of the study. The now developed “photosynthetic device” has a decisive advantage: In contrast to a battery, which discharges itself, light is simply used as an energy source.