A team of researchers led by an Indian-origin engineer, Muthukumaran Packirisamy, has developed a new technology to harnesses electrical energy from blue-green algae that can be used to charge cell phones and computers in the future.
Muthukumaran Packirisamy, who did his MS in Mechanical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, is currently posted as a faculty member in the department of Mechanical Engineering at Concordia University, Montreal.
He, along with his team, has developed a Micro Photosynthetic Power Cell (μPSC) that uses the photosynthesis and respiration processes of the blue-green algae to harness electrical energy.
“Both photosynthesis and respiration, which take place in plants cells, involve electron transfer chains. By trapping the electrons released by blue-green algae during photosynthesis and respiration, we can harness the electrical energy they produce naturally,” he explained in a study published in the journal, Technology.
According to the researchers, the blue-green algae are the most prosperous microorganisms on earth. They are also known as cyanobacteria, and are found in a wide range of habitat across all latitudes. They have been in existence since the very beginning. Early flora and fauna on earth took shape because of cyanobacteria. It produced oxygen, thereby helping other life forms to develop.
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Thus, researchers have taken advantage of a process that is occurring all over the world, constantly, and have found a way to create cheap and carbon-free energy from it.
Photo Credit: Mark Sadowski/Flickr
The power cells consist of an anode, cathode and proton exchange membrane. The blue green algae are placed in the anode chamber. During the process of photosynthesis, when the algae releases electrons on the electrode surface, an external load connected to the device extract the electrons and harness power.
Muthukumaran Packirisamy informed that the project is in its early stages, and work on scaling the power cell and making this commercial is still to be done. He hopes that these micro photosynthetic power cells will soon be used in many different applications.