ETU Develops Energy Sources From Algae

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The Engineering Center for Microtechnology and Diagnostics of St. Petersburg State Electrotechnical University “LETI” has developed miniature energy sources, which use cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) as an alternative energy resource. Researchers believe that these ancient organisms are promising components in energy sources and can be effectively used in biofuel cells.

“We used two strains of cyanobacteria, Anabaena and Synechococcus, which are cultivated in the Resource Center of ETU “LETI,” as bioanalyzer. Cyanobacteria are the oldest large group of prokaryotic (i.e. deprived of nuclei) microorganisms with a bacterial cell structure. They are the only prokaryotes that can use sunlight as energy, water as an electron donor, and air as a carbon source. This is what gave them the botanical name blue-green algae. Their distinctive feature is their capacity for oxygenic photosynthesis, which enabled oxygen to grow on Earth ~2.3 billion years ago. This is the reason for our decision to use these microorganisms, which are widely spread in nature, in development,” says Anna Pudova, Engineer of Engineering Center for Microtechnology and Diagnostics of ETU “LETI”.

The developers created and tested a model of a biofuel cell for the photogeneration of electricity based on cyanobacteria. Researchers focused on the design and optimization of nanostructured anodes on which life cells were deposited. They created and tested various types of anodes based on glassy carbon, carbon paper cardboard, carbon felt. Scientists carried out a comparative study of energy production efficiency using different strains of cyanobacteria and found out that developed fuel cell efficiency with Synechococcus was 1.3 times higher than that with Anabaena. Maximum efficiency obtained with hybrid carbon anode and Synechococcus was 183 mW/m2.

Nowadays, the engineering of environmentally friendly and renewable energy sources is one of the most important problems of humanity. The Engineering Center for Microtechnology and Diagnostics of ETU “LETI” develops miniature energy sources, which use cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) as an alternative energy resource. Researchers believe that these ancient organisms are promising components in energy sources and can be effectively used in biofuel cells.

“We used two strains of cyanobacteria, Anabaena and Synechococcus, which are cultivated in the Resource Center of ETU “LETI,” as bioanalyzer. Cyanobacteria are the oldest large group of prokaryotic (i.e. deprived of nuclei) microorganisms with a bacterial cell structure. They are the only prokaryotes that can use sunlight as energy, water as an electron donor, and air as a carbon source. This is what gave them the botanical name blue-green algae. Their distinctive feature is their capacity for oxygenic photosynthesis, which enabled oxygen to grow on Earth ~2.3 billion years ago. This is the reason for our decision to use these microorganisms, which are widely spread in nature, in development,” Anna explains.

The developers created and tested a model of a biofuel cell for the photogeneration of electricity based on cyanobacteria. Researchers focused on the design and optimization of nanostructured anodes on which life cells were deposited. They created and tested various types of anodes based on glassy carbon, carbon paper cardboard, carbon felt. Scientists carried out a comparative study of energy production efficiency using different strains of cyanobacteria and found out that developed fuel cell efficiency with Synechococcus was 1.3 times higher than that with Anabaena. Maximum efficiency obtained with hybrid carbon anode and Synechococcus was 183 mW/m2.