Discoveries, Solar Technology News

Bacteria Powered Devices

What is it?

Researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge printed blue-green algae onto a conductive surface, creating a living “solar” cell that can generate an electric current both in the dark and in response to light. They say the cell could serve as an environmentally friendly power supply for low-power devices such as biosensors.

Why does it matter?

The biophotovoltaic device is biodegradable, meaning it might be used in items such as solar panels or batteries, which could decompose in a garden compost pile when used up. Using a plain ink jet printer to create the “battery” makes them cheap, accessible and environmentally friendly, unlike current batteries that use heavy metals and plastics. The devices are around 10 centimeters thick and can be printed in a variety of sizes.

How does it work?

Biophotovoltaic cells contain algae that is phototrophic, meaning it converts light into energy. Even in the dark, the algae generates energy by metabolizing its internal storage reserves. When connected to a nonbiological electrode, the cells can function as either a “bio solar panel” when exposed to light or a “solar bio-battery” in the dark. One of the biggest challenges is producing them on a large scale. In the new study, researchers demonstrated that they can use inkjet printing to print the battery, which means they can fabricate cells quickly and with great precision. Nine printed cells connected together can power a digital clock.

Original article here