From the beginning of time, the wheel of development has moved hand in hand with energy. Civilization has been thriving with a energy as source. One of such energy created by humans to develop the world around him is “Electricity”. It is a form of energy that we use in our daily to day life, from powering machines and electrical devices to traveling. It is also known as secondary source of energy, meaning that it is derived primary sources like coal and winds.
With the increase of population and our never ending thirst for electricity as a source of energy we have over exploited the existing natural resources to a extend that most of them would extinguish forever (fossil fuels), if we don’t find a alternate source. In such an attempt a group of scientist have developed a “power cell that runs on algae”.
Next week, international leaders and scientists are meeting in Paris to figure out ways to lower the world’s reliance on fossil fuels with but one of the greatest challenges they face is finding clean and highly efficient energy sources to take its place. To answer this a team led by Concordia engineering professor Muthukumaran Packirisamy have developed a new kind of power cell that uses blue-green algae to energize and harnesses an electrical charge from the photosynthesis and respiration of cyanobacteria, microorganisms that make up blue-green algae.
Muthukumaran Packirisamy from Concordia University in Montreal said:
“Both photosynthesis and respiration, which take place in plant 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.”
The photosynthetic power cell contains an anode, cathode, and proton exchange membrane. The blue-green algae(cyanobacteria) are then placed in the anode chamber, and as they undergo photosynthesis, they release electrons onto the electrode surface. With an external load attached to the cell, it’s possible to extract the electrons and harness power from this device.
It’s still early days for this technology, with the researchers noting that they have to do a lot of work in terms of scaling the power cell to make it commercially viable. So far, the team has measured open-circuit voltage as high as 993 millivolts and obtained a peak power of 175.37 microwatts. The researchers hope the system will one day be powerful enough to run everyday electronic devices if they can expand on these initial achievements and also would help humanity to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
But from a natural resources point of view, blue-green algae are one of the greatest choice to help take the burden off diminishing fossil fuels, cyanobacteria being one of the most prosperous microorganisms on Earth and unlike other renewable energy sources like solar power and wind power, its efficiency doesn’t vary with changing weather.
Packirisamy believes that by taking advantage of a process that is constantly occurring all over the world,they can create a new technology that could lead to cheaper ways of generating carbon-free energy and also said that “In five years, this will be able to power your smart phone.”
Hope this technology might prove to be a alternative source of electricity soon so we could stop depending on fossil fuels so much.