Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

May 03

Engineers Tap Algae Cells for Electricity

Posted in Biofuels | Energy Inventions | Future Technology

Algae Cells for Electricity With the help of photosynthesis plants convert light energy to chemical energy. This chemical energy is stored in the bonds of sugars they use for food. Photosynthesis happens inside a chloroplast. Chloroplasts are considered as the cellular powerhouses that make sugars and impart leaves and algae a green hue. During photosynthesis water is split into oxygen, protons and electrons. When sunrays fall on the leaves and reach the chloroplast, electrons get excited and attain higher energy level. These excited electrons are caught by proteins. The electrons are passed through a series of proteins. These proteins utilize more of the electrons’ energy to synthesize sugars until the entire electron’s energy is exhausted.


Now researchers at Stanford are inspired by a new idea. They intercepted the electrons just after they had been excited by light and were at their highest energy levels. They put the gold electrodes inside the chloroplasts of algae cells, and tapped the electrons to create a tiny electrical current. It may be the beginning of the production of “high efficiency” bioelectricity. This will be a clean and green source of energy but minus carbon dioxide.

Stanford University researchers got their work published in the journal Nano Letters (March, 2010). WonHyoung Ryu is the main author of this work. He says, “We believe we are the first to extract electrons out of living plant cells.” The Stanford research team created an exclusive, ultra-sharp gold nanoelectrode for this project.

They inserted the electrodes inside the algal cell membranes. The cell remains alive throughout the whole process. When cells start the photosynthesis, the electrodes attract electrons and produce tiny electric current. Ryu tells us, “We’re still in the scientific stages of the research. We were dealing with single cells to prove we can harvest the electrons.” The byproducts of such electricity production are protons and oxygen. Ryu says, “This is potentially one of the cleanest energy sources for energy generation. But the question is, is it economically feasible?”

Ryu himself provides the answer. He explained that they were able to extract just one picoampere from each cell. This quantity is so little that they would require a trillion cells photosynthesizing for one hour just to get the same amount of energy in a AA battery.

Another drawback of such an experiment is that the cells die after an hour. It might be the small trickles in the membrane around the electrode could be killing the cells. Or cells may be dying because they’re not storing the energy for their own vital functions necessary to sustain life. To attain commercial viability researchers have to overcome these hurdles.

They should go for a plant with larger chloroplasts for a larger collecting area. For such experiment they will also need a bigger electrode that could tap more electrons. With a longer-surviving plant and superior collecting ability, they could harness more electricity in terms of power.

  • Jim Jonas

    Well this is a sensible way to create plausible cells. I have questions although if we can do something with these products along with Hydrogen Fuel cells Let’s please stop talking and build Infrastructure already. I wish to stop sending money to Saudi Arabia and gulf states so we can reduce carbon stop sending billions so we can create jobs while bringing our deficient down. Next housing and building red o’s.OK we can do more for many ways to create a cleaner way of living. We already have. Let us manufacture here U.S. We need Green Banks only for the creation of clean manufacturing from Cars Housing Commercial Building and windows E.T.C. Lets do this instead of killing our food supply in the Gulf of Mexico oil. We can’t procrastinate.Everyone knows that so when we vote research our new politicians thinking. Vote jobs clean drinking water and new energy for us. Instead of complaining roll up our sleeves and do what Americans do the best Create our own Energy and new policy. Lets not allow wealthy ownership donate and tell us we can’t do this. Think our Middle Class will be back if we don’t say Woe is me. And tell the new Congress and Senate do it this way.

  • Jason

    I guess this is important since we’ve never taken electricity directly from a plant. Still this sounds like experimental stuff that won’t see commercial uses for 20 years plus. Then again since it’s so new, we can’t be sure the pace at which it’ll advance.

  • Richard Fletcher

    But who knows how fast are fast this could precede in its development. Look how far solar energy has come.

  • Ravi

    It’s obvious that microbes will die early. Because as you are withdrawing electrons required for ATP synthesis, less energy will be produced which may not satisfy their need of energy. There should be recycling of electrons…

  • V.G.Praveen

    I am interesting to do this experiment. I hope that it will be an achievable target.


Common Algae for Biofuel Butanol Production

Common Algae for Biofuel Butanol Production

There have been various methods tried for reducing fossil fuel dependency and containing carbon footprints for a healthier and more eco-friendly future. Corn-produced ethanol has been used for mixing

The New Role of Microbes in Bio-Fuel Production

The New Role of Microbes in Bio-Fuel Production

Currently biofuel is produced from plants as well as microbes. The oils, carbohydrates or fats generated by the microbes or plants are refined to produce biofuel. This is a

Forecasting Wind Data with Cell Phone Towers

Forecasting Wind Data with Cell Phone Towers

Wind data provider Onesemble has developed sensors which can keep note of wind date for around 95% of the wind farms existing in the Texas area. The help of

Fuel Additive Production Takes the Green Route

Fuel Additive Production Takes the Green Route

Research is on for the organic production of isobutene (isobutylene). Thomas Bobik, Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology and David Gogerty, a doctoral student are doing pioneer research

Scientists Revisit Power from Potatoes

Scientists Revisit Power from Potatoes

This could very well be the magic formula for future power generation. Yes, scientists are busy crafting what is now called as “solid organic electric battery based upon treated

Synthetic Fuel from CO2 and Solar Energy?

Synthetic Fuel from CO2 and Solar Energy?

Really amazing are the innovative ways solar power is put into use. Now a team of scientists working in Sandia National Laboratories is focusing on exploring basic steps to

Biofuels and Carbon Capture from Frog Foam?

Biofuels and Carbon Capture from Frog Foam?

Since time immemorial human beings are trying to use solar energy for their survival and day to day use. We know that green plants create their own food and

Solar Energy from Plant Protein Structure

Solar Energy from Plant Protein Structure

Nanoscience is quite fascinated with the process of photosynthesis. They want to duplicate this process exhibited by green plants and utilize the solar power for energy use. Till now