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Concordia University team uses algae for carbon-negative clean energy solution

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A recent study conducted by researchers at Concordia University developed an innovative method to generate clean energy using algae. In order to harness the power of photosynthesis, the team created micro photosynthetic power cells capable of capturing electrons produced during this natural process and converting them into a continuous electric current.

“Our system does not use any of the hazardous gases or microfibres needed for the silicon fabrication technology that photovoltaic cells rely on,” Muthukumaran Packirisamy, a professor at Concordia University and the paper’s corresponding author, said. “Furthermore, disposing of silicon computer chips is not easy. We use biocompatible polymers, so the whole system is easily decomposable and very cheap to manufacture.”

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Algae release electrons continuously due to their photosynthetic machinery, allowing for uninterrupted electricity generation. The technology not only produces green energy, but also actively removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, making it a carbon-negative solution. Water is the only byproduct of this process.

“Photosynthesis produces oxygen and electrons. Our model traps the electrons, which allows us to generate electricity,” Kirankumar Kuruvinashetti, a postdoctoral associate at the University of Calgary who worked on the study, said. “So, more than being a zero-emission technology, it’s a negative carbon emission technology. It absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and gives you a current.”

The environmental benefits of this algae-based energy are clear. However, scaling up this technology for widespread use will require further development. Currently, the micro cells can generate enough energy to power low- and ultra-low-power devices, such as smartwatches, Bluetooth headsets and home security systems.

Despite these limitations, the Concordia research team remains optimistic about the future of their technology. They predict it could become an affordable and clean power source, potentially rivaling solar panels in the future.

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[JACK AYLMER]

THIS POND COULD HOLD THE KEY TO THE CLEANEST SOURCE OF ELECTRICITY ON THE PLANET.

AND IT’S ALL IN THE ALGAE.

RESEARCHERS AT CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY HAS DEVELOPED A WAY OF USING THESE ORGANISMS FOR CREATING CLEAN ENERGY.

TO DO IT, THEY’VE CREATED SUPER SMALL POWER CELLS THAT HARNESS THE POWER OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS.

JUST LIKE HUMANS, ALGAE IS ALWAYS BREATHING.

THE DIFFERENCE IS THAT BECAUSE OF THEIR PHOTOSYNTHETIC MACHINERY, ELECTRONS ARE RELEASED DURING THAT CONSTANT RESPIRATION. 

THE CONCORDIA TEAM’S MICRO POWER CELLS CAPTURE THOSE ELECTRONS AS THEY’RE MADE, USING THEM TO CREATE AN ELECTRICAL CURRENT

AND BECAUSE ALGAE IS CONTINUOUSLY OUTPUTTING ELECTRONS IN ORDER TO SURVIVE, THE ELECTRICITY GENERATION NEVER STOPS. 

NOT ONLY DOES THIS PRODUCE GREEN ENERGY-

BUT C-O-2 IS ALSO SUCKED OUT OF THE ATMOSPHERE AT THE SAME TIME-

ACTUALLY MAKING THIS TECHNOLOGY CARBON NEGATIVE.

AND THE ONLY BYPRODUCT CREATED AS A RESULT IS WATER. 

WHILE THE ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF USING ALGAE TO PUMP OUT ELECTRICITY ARE EVIDENT-

DOING SO AT A LARGE SCALE WILL TAKE MORE TIME TO DEVELOP.

RIGHT NOW, THESE MICRO CELLS CAN ONLY PRODUCE ENOUGH ENERGY TO KEEP LOW- AND ULTRA-LOW POWER DEVICES RUNNING.

THINK THINGS LIKE SMART WATCHES, BLUETOOTH HEADSETS OR HOME SECURITY SYSTEMS.

BUT, MEMBERS OF THE RESEARCH TEAM AT CONCORDIA SAY THIS TECHNOLOGY HAS BIG POTENTIAL.

PREDICTING IT COULD BE AN AFFORDABLE, CLEAN POWER SOURCE THAT MAY EVENTUALLY COMPETE WITH SOLAR PANELS IN THE FUTURE.

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