May 17, 2022

This Computer Ran “Green” for 6 Month

If environmentally-friendly technology has proven anything, it’s that Mother Nature has plenty of solutions for today’s problems, and scientists from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom have shown the simplest organisms have the greatest potential to do so.

The researchers were able to power a CPU chip for six months by simply using a device sealed with Synechocystis, a colony of freshwater cyanobacteria.

The device – a canister not much larger than an AA battery – housed the blue-green algae with electrodes attached, and the whole unit was left near a window. The algae underwent photosynthesis and produced a minor electrical charge which was just enough to run the ARM microprocessor.

Dr Paolo Bombelli, who works in the Department of Biochemistry at the institute, said: “We were impressed by how consistently the system worked over a long period of time – we thought it might stop after a few weeks but it just kept going.”

During the six months of uninterrupted power from the canister, the scientists calculated that the system consumed 0.3 microwatts during operation, and 0.24 microwatts outside of processing.

Although it’s tiny, the potential is there and scalability is being considered with the technology; a research field utilising biological organisms to produce energy via photosynthesis, “biophotovoltaics”, has slowly grown over the years and is expected to be widely available in over a decade.

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