Algae photosynthesis could power IoT systems

Algae photosynthesis could power IoT systems

IoT (Internet of Things) systems are increasingly popular in homes to control and manage the various devices in the home, from floor robots to smart lighting. Obviously, this means that apparatuses must be employed which, of course, require electrical energy to function.

A team of researchers from various parts of the world has succeeded in generating electrical energy through the photosynthesis of algae, which could lead to sustainable edge computing systems. With a module the size of an AA battery, it was possible to power an ARM-based Cortex M0 + board continuously for over a year with only ambient light from a typical home environment.

Dr. Paolo Bombelli of the University of Cambridge Biochemistry Department said:

We were impressed with how consistently the system worked over a long period of time - we thought it would stop after a few weeks, but it continued to work .

The growing number of IoT devices need more and more energy and we think this must come from systems that can generate energy, rather than simply storing it like batteries. Our photosynthetic device does not run out like a battery because it continuously uses light as an energy source.

A common species of blue-green algae, Synechocystis, was used for the experiment, which is capable of photosynthesizing its own nutrients from ambient lighting, while producing a small electric current. If the lighting is adequate, this means that it is potentially possible to power a microcontroller for very long periods.

Thanks to the use of common, inexpensive and recyclable materials, the system is easily replicable and this bodes well for the future, given that the increasing use of IoT devices will have an impact on energy consumption.