Blue-green algae, a type of cyanobacteria, set in a container on a windowsill powered a computer continuously for six months using photosynthesis Blue

Computer powered by colony of blue-green algae has run for six months

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2022-05-14 05:00:09

Blue-green algae, a type of cyanobacteria, set in a container on a windowsill powered a computer continuously for six months using photosynthesis

Blue-green algae sealed within a small container have powered a computer for six months. Similar photosynthetic power generators could run a range of small devices cheaply in the coming years, without the need for the rare and unsustainable materials used in batteries.

Christopher Howe at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues built a small enclosure about the size of an AA battery out of aluminium and clear plastic. Inside, they placed a colony of a type of cyanobacteria called Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 – commonly known as “blue-green algae” – which produce oxygen through photosynthesis when exposed to sunlight.

The device was placed on a windowsill at the home of team member Paolo Bombelli during a covid-19 lockdown in 2021, and stayed there from February to August. It provided a continuous current across its anode and cathode that ran an Arm microprocessor.

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