Research: Energy Collected by Algae Powers ARM CPU

Energy collected through photosynthesis of algae is expected to power small ARM processors in the future.

Very little power is required to run small ARM-based CPUs. Researchers have already experimented with solar energy and corresponding solar cells for environmental sensors. Unfortunately, the energy yield from the sun is not constant: Clouds or nights cause the power supply to collapse. Therefore, scientists have turned to algae to a new field of energy production.

Also works at night

To do this, scientists from the University of Cambridge powered a mini-PC with an ARM Cortex processor, which was previously produced by algae, for six months. Specifically, the green spanalgae, also known as blue-green algae, were used for this purpose. This is a type of cyanobacteria that can generate energy through photosynthesis in a nutrient solution. Sunlight is mandatory for the experiment. But even in absolute darkness, the algae continue to provide energy. This is picked up by two electrodes and routed to the ARM board. This consists of extremely economical ARM Cortex-M0+ CPUs with a cloud interface. The measurement results with which the energy production is observed are transmitted via this.

Only 0.3 microwatts required for operation

The processor was not idle, but had to perform calculations for 45 minutes per hour, after which it went idle for 15 minutes. A power of only 0.3 microwatts was required for this. The entire construction stood on the window sill in a researcher’s house for several months.

Measuring stations at the end of the world

The results of the algae battery make the scientists hopeful. Smartwatches or temperature sensors that run continuously using energy generated by algae would be conceivable. Measuring stations could also be operated in this way at remote locations. It is expected to be ready for series production in about five years.

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