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Scientists create a self-powered computer

No, it’s not science fiction. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have successfully powered acomputer using algae. The tiny computer system is the same size as an AA battery and is running an ARM Cortex computer processor. The researchers swapped out the traditional rechargeable battery for a non-toxic algae called Synechocystis.

Self Powered computer - Resaercher Howe holding the tiny computer with Dr. Bombelli holding flask of algae
Professor Christopher Howe holding the tiny computer with Dr Paolo Bombelli holding a flask of algae. Source: University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge Professor, Christopher Howe, said the experiment was performed under natural light in “a domestic environment and semi-outdoor conditions”. The algae uses photosynthesis to harness energy from the sun. This provides enough natural energy to power the computer continuously. In fact it harvests enough food from the sunlight during daylight to sustain itself throughout the night.

The computer has now been running for over one year without turning off.

Howe went on to say, “The growing Internet of Things needs an increasing amount of power, and we think this will have to come from systems that can generate [their own] energy, rather than simply store it like batteries.” The Internet of Things describes any stand alone device such as a video doorbell or a smart traffic light. If you want to find out more read the team’s research paper.

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