Surprising new renewable energy source generates ‘negative carbon emissions’

A surprising renewable energy source has “negative carbon emissions,” a new study has found.

Harnessing the power of photosynthesis, a team at Concordia University in Wisconsin has developed microphotosynthetic power cells that generate electricity from algae. These cells capture electrons produced during photosynthesis, turning them into a continuous electric current.

Scientists have found that this actually has a double benefit. It not only produces clean energy, but also absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making it a carbon negative technology. The only by-product is water, which emphasizes its environmental friendliness.

“The idea of ​​a microphotosynthetic power cell is to extract electrons produced by photosynthesis,” Dr. Kirankumar Kuruvinashetti, currently a Mitacs postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary, said in a statement.

“Photosynthesis produces oxygen and electrons. Our model captures electrons, which allows us to generate electricity. So it’s not a zero-emission technology, but it is a carbon-negative technology: it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produces electricity. The only by-product is water.”

Microphotosynthetic energy cells consist of small chambers with a special membrane between them. The algae are placed in one chamber and another chemical, potassium ferricyanide, in the other chamber.

Stock photo showing algae covering the water surface. A new study shows that algae can be a source of renewable energy.


When algae photosynthesize, they release tiny particles called electrons. These electrons are captured by the membrane, creating an electric current. This setup can even generate electricity without direct sunlight, although it works better in sunlight.

“Like humans, algae constantly breathe, but they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Through the mechanism of photosynthesis, they also release electrons during respiration. Electricity production is not stopped. Electrons are collected continuously,” says Dr. Hab. – said candidate and co-author of the article Dhilippan Panneerselvam in a statement.

Algae energy cells currently produce less electricity than regular solar panels, but future improvements could increase their efficiency. They are easier and cheaper to make because they do not require harmful gases or complex materials such as silicon solar cells. Instead, they use environmentally friendly and affordable materials, making them both eco-friendly and cost-effective.

“Our system does not use any hazardous gases or microfibers needed in the silicon technology on which photovoltaic cells are based. Moreover, disposing of silicon computer chips is not easy. We use biocompatible polymers, so the entire system is easily degradable and very cheap to produce,” said Muthukumaran Packirisamy, professor at the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering and co-author of the paper.

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