Breathing Batteries — The Potential of Algae for Power Generation

Nick Sokol, PhD
3 min readSep 25, 2022

Algae Bio-Batteries are Coming


Batteries have become an integral part of everyday society. In fact, 97% of Americans now live on a daily basis with a battery in their pocket (or elsewhere!). From smartphones to electric vehicles, batteries are everywhere and are becoming more commonplace in many of the devices we utilize on a daily basis. The primary reason batteries are rising through the ranks is their portability. Batteries can go anywhere and power numerous devices so long as they have a charge. A combination of voltages and capacities allow things like flashlights, radios, and drones to be powered and used in a variety of conditions. Lithium batteries provide the highest energy density of any battery type. They can store a large amount of power and provide a high amount of voltage with less material. However, there are a variety of applications that do not require lithium batteries, and other battery chemistries are perfectly suited for these purposes. Sodium-ion (saltwater) batteries are an example, they have incredible potential but currently require more materials to equal the power of lithium, making them infeasible for drones, electric vehicles, and other heavy duty use cases. Recently, scientists have begun tinkering with Algal Batteries. These are batteries with living algae inside of them that absorb sunlight and the excess electrons are distributed through a circuit as electricity. If your imagination isn’t running wild yet thinking of the potential here, just keep reading!

Use Case Examples

Algal Batteries are unique in that they are probably one of the only small scale battery designs that have living organisms inside of them. A team of researchers at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom used blue-green algae to power a micro-computer chip for 6 months. The battery was still operating long after the hypothesized time it was believed to fail. The power output of the algal battery was not significant relative to other battery types, so there’s a lot more work to be done, but it is capable of lighting an array of LEDs and a digital monitor. While researchers have noted a lower amount of power output, the amount of power these batteries can produce are sufficient for charging phones, small radios…

Nick Sokol, PhD

I write about Sustainability, ClimateTech, Entrepreneurialism, Technology, and Software Engineering.