Agência para o Investimento e Comércio Externo de Portugal


A team of scientists from the Faculty of Science and Technology of Universidade de Coimbra (FCTUC) has set up a bioelectronics and bioenergy laboratory to study the generation of clean and sustainable energy from communication between microalgae.

The Generating Energy from Electroactive Algae (GREEN) project was one of the projects funded by the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant, which received €2.2 million in 2020.


"This new laboratory is a base for new bioelectricity studies. The instrumentation available will allow us to measure a wide range of signals, from slow signals from the microorganisms we are trying to collect to produce energy to high-frequency signals such as those produced by some human brain cells. I believe this room will be an asset for multidisciplinary science," says Paulo Rocha, Associate Professor in the Department of Life Sciences (DCV) and researcher at the Centre for Functional Ecology (CFE).


"So far, in addition to the research laboratory, we have already developed a set of sensors that can detect communication between microorganisms, namely microalgae and bacteria," the FCTUC professor reveals, adding that his team has been trying to understand if these microorganisms communicate, why they do so and if they can find a way to communicate.


"We started by studying some species of microalgae to understand the nature of their communication. In fact, our team has recently published a paper demonstrating the existence of communication between these microorganisms and that they do it through ionic channels - measured by various sensors developed by our team and collaborators," he says. 


"If we can store these bioelectric signals efficiently, we can have a renewable energy source. That's the main goal of the project," he says.


According to Paulo Rocha, the origin of these electrical signals is still unknown. Still, there is already evidence that they are a stress response and even adaptation to certain conditions. This is why the team will continue to work until at least 2025, aiming to discover this phenomenon and, above all, find a new renewable energy source.


To follow the project, visit the GREEN website.