Tiny Photosynthetic Power Cells May be the Green Energy of the Future

First Posted: Oct 05, 2015 04:51 PM EDT

Tiny, photosynthetic power cells may be the green energy source of the future. A novel micro-technology can capture the electrical power generated by the photosynthesis and respiration of blue-green algae.

Clean and green carbon-free energy is anticipated as the potential solution for the mitigation and eventual erasure of global warming. This main source of clean energy comes from the sun, which emits more energy to the Earth every hour than mankind depletes in one year. However, capturing that energy is the issue. That's why researchers around the world are working on methods to retain solar energy.

In this case, the scientists came up with a method for harnessing the photosynthetic power from algae. Both photosynthesis and respiration involve electron transfer chains. That's why the researchers used the main concept of trapping these electrons that are released by blue-green algae.

More specifically, the researchers created a photosynthetic power cell that consists of an anode, cathode and proton exchange membrane. The anode chamber consists of cyanobacteria and it releases electrons to the electrode surface from a redox agent that is present at the cathode. An external load is connected to extract the electrons. This fabricated cell, in theory, could produce an open circuit voltage of 993 mV and a power density of 36.23 W/cm2.

These micro photosynthetic power cells could have huge implications for military and wireless applications. They could also be good power sources for Bio MEMS devices. For now, though, researchers are still working on the devices for the future.

The findings are published in the journal Technology.

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