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Biosensors and Bioelectronics
Volume 177, 2021, 112970

Miniature microbial solar cells to power wireless sensor networks

Lin Liua, Seokheun Choia,b

Bioelectronics & Microsystems Laboratory, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, State University of New York at Binghamton, 4400, Vestal Pkwy East, Binghamton, NY, USA.


Conventional wireless sensor networks (WSNs) powered by traditional batteries or energy storage devices such as lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors have challenges providing long-term and self-sustaining operation due to their limited energy budgets. Emerging energy harvesting technologies can achieve the longstanding vision of self-powered, long-lived sensors. In particular, miniature microbial solar cells (MSCs) can be the most feasible power source for small and low-power sensor nodes in unattended working environments because they continuously scavenge power from microbial photosynthesis by using the most abundant resources on Earth; solar energy and water. Even with low illumination, the MSC can harvest electricity from microbial respiration. Despite the vast potential and promise of miniature MSCs, their power and lifetime remain insufficient to power potential WSN applications. In this overview, we will introduce the field of miniature MSCs, from early breakthroughs to current achievements, with a focus on emerging techniques to improve their performance. Finally, challenges and perspectives for the future direction of miniature MSCs to self-sustainably power WSN applications will be given.

Keywords: Microbial solar cells, Miniaturization, Energy harvesting, Photosynthetic microorganisms, Wireless sensor networks.

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