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Generating Energy from Electroactive Algae

Project description

Breaking the power scalability barrier for bioenergy generators

Global concern about climate change has been growing in recent years, with a lot of research dedicated to better, more ecologically safe energy generation. Bioenergy, which involves deriving energy from biological sources, is one of the many energy resources available, and it has steadily been gaining more attention. The EU-funded GREEN project aims to establish a world-leading research centre focussed on the development of radical new ways to generate ecologically safe energy from algae. The project plans to introduce a self-sustainable bioenergy generator with a power output much higher than most current state-of-art bioenergy generators, thus bringing the EU one step closer to its green goals.


The aim of this grant is to establish a world leading research centre focusing on developing a radically different way to generate clean energy from algae. GREEN will deliver a self-sustainable bioenergy generator, with an output power of the order of W/m2 that is at least 100 times larger than current state-of-art bioenergy generators. The unprecedented enhancement in output power finally breaks the power scalability barrier for bioenergy generators and in this way delivers impact on the world’s renewable energy research trajectory.

I have recently discovered that a population of diatoms, a form of algae, communicate in a cooperative manner and produce long lasting large magnitude electrical oscillations. The discovery has been made possible through my recent breakthrough - I have developed a large area and low impedance transducer to record cooperative communication in cells.

My idea is to harvest the generated electricity from the algae. Using 2D electrodes, the output power is µW/m2, which is low. However, the power increases with the density of diatoms adhered to the electrode and with the electrical coupling of the cells to the electrode. By going from a 2D to porous 3D electrodes, and by optimizing the coupling an output power of W/m2 is within my reach.

To deliver the new bioenergy generator, it is essential to understand 1) which materials and 3D electrode geometries comprise larger cell densities and enable a more efficient charge transfer from the living organisms to the electrode 2) which organisms provide the higher output powers, and 3) how the electric circuitry will be developed to store and deliver the generated power.

This multidisciplinary research will advance the state-of-the-art by delivering a prototype for a new green self-sustained energy harvester, suitable for power scalability, through realising technological advances in 1) electrochemical electrodes, 2) cooperative signalling mechanisms in algae and 3) energy harvesting circuits.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 2 267 667,00
3004-531 Coimbra

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Continente Centro (PT) Região de Coimbra
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 2 267 667,00

Beneficiaries (1)