Algae are being studied since long for their power generating capabilities. Adam Freeman of the research company aLGAS has used Algae to create a prototype battery in his small lab near a lake in West Berkeley. This prototype at present consists only of a row of jars, but if it becomes successful, it could totally revolutionize battery power that is being used now.
According to Freeman, the Algae battery he is working on could generate 200 times more power than the currently used lithium-based batteries and could power even a Tesla. The Algae battery can also charge at a faster rate and can last longer than the usual Lithium-ion batteries used in mobile phones, tablets or even the Tesla car. The Algae have paper-thin fibers through which ions can get through easily and thus charge faster, as fast as 11 seconds!
The current batteries use Lithium and as their usage grows Lithium shortages are bound to occur. Lithium demand will also shoot up as more and more electric cars are produced. China holds 95% share in the global market for supply of rare earth materials used in batteries. No other material has been discovered as yet that could replace Lithium. In such a scenario, Algae batteries could prove to be a boon.
Studies have shown that Lithium-ion batteries contain Nickel and Cobalt which can cause an adverse effect on our health and environment. People exposed to these elements could suffer from a variety of health problems including cancer.
The following figure shows how a Lithium-ion battery gets charged:
Earlier research has shown that Algae have a charge and could be used for battery power. However, how much charge Algae can produce and how much of it would be required to power various devices such as a mobile or a car has not been ascertained yet.
Freeman claims to have found the solution but needs funding to begin mass production. He needs $1500 to build the prototype and a total of $5000 to get it ready for mass production. In the prototype, Freeman uses a bio-safe polymer that binds together the Algae fibres and improves its interaction with the electron charge. A French biochemist Pierre Calleja has used Algae to power a street lamp but his experiment is also in initial stages.
If Adam Freeman’s Algae Battery project is successful, we could not only power mobile devices and cars, but also an entire house with Algae. He says, “Think of driving your car on a living battery that charges in seconds with a battery that costs almost nothing and is actually good for the environment.”