Algae-powered Cortex-M0+ processor runs on light and water

Algae-powered Cortex-M0+ processor runs on light and water

Technology News |
By Peter Clarke

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have used a blue-green algae to power a Cortex-M0+ processor continuously for a year using only ambient light and water.

The system offers the potential to power small portable devices and has the advantage over other energy harvest systems, such as solar, of not having high input cost to produce. The biophotosynthetic system is built using common, durable, inexpensive and largely recyclable materials.

The blue-algae is kept in water and contained in a windowed cell roughly the same size as an AA battery. The algae, Synechocystis grown on an anode of aluminium wool, harvests energy from the sun through photosynthesis generating an electric current of the order of microamps at voltage of the order of 1V.

Special Cortex-M0+

Arm Research developed the ultra-efficient Arm Cortex M0+ testchip, built the board, and set up the data-collection cloud interface presented in the experiments.

The algae does not need feeding as it generates its own food during photosynthesis. Also power generation continues for a time when there is no light allowing for continuous operation depending on light and computation duty cycles.

“The growing Internet of Things needs an increasing amount of power, and we think this will have to come from systems that can generate energy, rather than simply store it like batteries,” said Professor Christopher Howe in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry, joint senior author of the paper. The paper was published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

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