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A battery filled with algae is somehow managing to power this computer for months: newscientist.com/article/23195

No-one's quite sure what's going on. Possibly the algae is serving as the medium catalyzing the interaction between the anode and cathode in the battery.

Except research shows the anode isn't degrading, which suggests ...

... the *algae* is producing the electrons.

Some thoughts on this in my blog post here, item 6: clivethompson.medium.com/lavaf

@kissane

So great, eh?

Like I was saying in the blog post, the fascinating thing isn't just that we're increasingly discovering how much electrical current plants produce, but that we've made computers that are so low-powered than they can be conceivably powered by plants ...

Meeting in the middle

@clive Yes, exactly that. That—what, collaboration?—that you noted in the post, that feels like such a fascinating vein of possibilities.

@clive NewScientist can be pretty woo-woo but I haven't checked to see whether there's been peer review...it sounds possible because electricity is found in many organisms...

@mandyroy @clive NS is not illegitimate, no, it's just that it runs a lot of highly speculative material on experiments that haven't really been peer reviewed. I certainly hope the one about the algae based battery works out, I'm all for any safe alternative energy sources. Quite a few scientists regard NS as a bit flaky -- eg the speculations on consciousness seem woo-woo and "magical" (in a negative sense) to them, but I think NS is a needed place to field speculation and early trials.

@mandyroy @clive I also am rather woo-woo on consciousness. That is, I'm a believer it's more than the sum of its parts, and it connects to an unknown Something Higher. IF we allow it to.

@mattgriffin

omg yes

I haven't thought of that film in years!!

I saw in the theaters when it came out in the 80s, I'm old

@clive I'm sorry, you realize this is a key component for either The Matrix or Soylent Green, right? This won't end well. Mark my words!

@clive I have to wonder now whether this would work with green algae, etc.

@clive for real “bio-batteries” were a hot topic when I was in grad school 10yago. It’s pretty awesome to see how elegant “in silico” advances are reducing power req’s.

@clive can we call this the Fleischmann–Pond-effect (too soon?)

@tasket

Absolutely -- electrons transfer during photosynthesis

@clive
Crazy, and beautiful! I love this :) Makes me wish I was better at making stuff like this myself, I'd love to see it working.

@EmPenTen

Yeah, I want to read more carefully to figure out how they made the algae battery. Like, are the components readily enough available that anyone could make one?

If so, it'd make a very cool science fair project

@clive
Exactly! I want one in my home - I can easily find the algae, it's problematic around here. I bet I could find half the other stuff too if only I knew what it all was...
May need to get my Uncle Google in on the job. Then I'll be satisfied that I don't understand and give up ;)

@clive
This interests me. I can order algae online and the anode was aluminum. What was the cathode material? I didn't see it in the article.

@clive Before I got too excited I’d want to see a mass spec of the solution and the before/after weights of the electrodes to be sure it’s not just a normal redox reaction, and the aluminium is slowly being consumed.

I’d wager considerable money that it’s something like that going on.

@clive See my later post - it’s *tiny* amounts of power, but it’s not redox, since there’s only one electrode.

@clive For those interested, the abstract is at https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2022/EE/D2EE00233G and the full paper is at https://www.rsc.org/suppdata/d2/ee/d2ee00233g/d2ee00233g1.pdf

It’s a lot more complicated (and frankly, more plausible) than the New Scientist article makes out.

The algae are growing both on the aluminium wool, and in the liquid.

The peak power involved is 4.2x10^-6W, and it’s only powering the CPU, nothing else. You’d literally need 10 million of these to make a normal LED light bulb turn on.

@lightrider @clive Yeah, I made a typo - but it’s 10^-6 now. So 4.2 micro watts.

@clive with today low power micro controllers, this needs to be pushed harder.

@clive thanks for the blog, although I just rabbit holed with the Dall-E2
Not necessarily a bad thing.

@DocBolus

Yeah, that dall-E test was pretty addictive. I got surprisingly good at figuring out the "tells" of AI ... how did you do?

@clive awful I only got 15 right, but I found another link you might like.
I'm out at the minute so will toot you with it later.

@clive Next up:
artificial intelligence discovers humans could be used as cheap batteries 🤪

@clive You know I'm referring to the matrix (movie) story?

@clive
This is basic biology. Photosynthesis by chlorophyll results in a photon of light producing a hydrogen ion and an electron in a process referred to as charge separation. It is these free electrons that are causing an electric current when algae are exposed to sunlight.

@clive

Certainly a research area, it would be worthwhile to sacrifice ones life to.

@clive

From the article: "computational workload, which required 0.3 microwatts of power, and 15 minutes of standby, which required 0.24 microwatts."
That's the amount of power you can get from a literal hamster wheel after the hamster is dead and it only moves when the wind blows or even the cheapest fotovoltaic cell placed in shade. I mean, c'mon.

@clive Incredible. And a technology so young can only have greater potential as it matures.

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