team of researchers from the Optical Bio Microsystem lab at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, have invented and developed micro-photosynthetic cell technology that can harness electrical power from the photosynthesis and respiration of blue-green algae.
The research into an effective method for harnessing photosynthetic power from algae was headed by Dr. Muthukumaran Packirisamy, research Chair of the Optical Bio Microsystem lab at Concordia, and is featured in the September 2015 issue of the journal Technology.
Both photosynthesis and respiration, which take place in plants cells, involve electron transfer chains. The main concept involves trapping these electrons that are released by blue-green algae. The electron transfer chains of photosynthesis and respiration are constructive in harnessing the electrical energy from blue-green algae.
This photosynthetic power cell consists of an anode, cathode and proton exchange membrane. The anode chamber consists of cyanobacteria and it releases electrons to the electrode surface from a redox agent that is present at the cathode. An external load is connected to extract the electrons. The fabricated cell could produce an open circuit voltage of 993mV and a power density of 36.23W/cm2.
The more detailed report is available in the journal Technology. The performance of the power cell can be increased by reducing the electrode spacing between the two electrodes of proton exchange membrane and by more efficient design of the cell.
These micro photosynthetic power cells may entail significant military and wireless applications. They can also be good power sources for Bio MEMS devices. However, challenges still exists for MEMS researchers to fabricate the small scale anode-cathode chambers that are suitable for generating the high current density and high power density from the cell.
Of course, much work needs to be done in scaling the power cell and making this commercial. The team of researchers in Optical Bio Micro Systems is working to fabricate the high power density and high current density power cell in economical ways.