Harnessing the power of algae: new, greener fuel cells move step closer to reality

As the world inhabitants will increase, so too does power demand. The risk of local weather change means that there’s an pressing want to discover cleaner, renewable alternate options to fossil fuels that don’t contribute in depth quantities of greenhouse gases with doubtlessly devastating penalties on our ecosystem. Solar power is taken into account to be a very engaging supply as on common the Earth receives round 10,000 instances extra power from the solar in a given time than is required by human consumption.

In latest years, as well as to artificial photovoltaic gadgets, biophotovoltaics (BPVs, also called organic solar-cells) have emerged as an environmentally-friendly and low-cost method to harvesting photo voltaic power and changing it into electrical present. These photo voltaic cells utilise the photosynthetic properties of microorganisms equivalent to algae to convert gentle into electrical present that can be utilized to present electrical energy.

During photosynthesis, algae produce electrons, some of that are exported exterior the cell the place they will present electrical present to power gadgets. To date, all the BPVs demonstrated have positioned charging (gentle harvesting and electron era) and power supply (switch to the electrical circuit) in a single compartment; the electrons generate present as quickly as they’ve been secreted.

In a brand new method described in the journal Nature Energy, researchers from the departments of Biochemistry, Chemistry and Physics have collaborated to develop a two-chamber BPV system the place the two core processes concerned in the operation of a photo voltaic cell – era of electrons and their conversion to power – are separated.

“Charging and power delivery often have conflicting requirements,” explains Kadi Liis Saar, of the Department of Chemistry. “For example, the charging unit needs to be exposed to sunlight to allow efficient charging, whereas the power delivery part does not require exposure to light but should be effective at converting the electrons to current with minimal losses.”

Building a two-chamber system allowed the researchers to design the two items independently and thru this optimise the efficiency of the processes concurrently.

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Image: Artist’s impression

Credit: Kadi Liis Saar


Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

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