Diatom Energy – Organic Solar Power from Algae


The photoelectric effect occurs when light particles interact with matter, especially semiconductors like silicon, producing a flow of electrons that can be used as electricity.

I am making power in my backyard with microscopic pond algae. Rather, they are making the power, as I believe they’ve been doing since the Jurassic age, and I am just beginning to gather it, test it, and put it to use. Diatoms are surface phytoplankton (plant-like photosynthetic microbes in the surface of water) that are mostly made of silica (glass). Even though algae is being cultivated for fuel sources lately, this is not that kind of energy. There is no combustion here. The effect I’m observing I believe to be based on quantum physics in the interaction between light and silicon via the photoelectric effect, the same interaction that produces power in conventional solar panels. There is some precedent for this coming from moss – and theoretically any plant can put out energy that can be used to power light-duty applications.


The electricity in the light is coming from the moss in under the surface of the table.

What attracted me to working with diatoms, however, is the fact that they make their beautiful glass houses out of silicon, the same material we make solar panels with. The ocean and lakes are known to have a certain electrical charge – in fact, you have to put zincs on your boat if you don’t want to have it fall apart from this small electrical charge eating your fasteners. People have always said this is from the salt and/or mineral content in the water – true, ions transfer electricity through water – but how much of that electrical energy is from the silica in living diatoms being activated by the sun, producing electrons that enter the system and are *then* carried around by all those ionic minerals? I plan to see. From what I’ve seen, the voltage changes when the sun comes out. That demonstrates, at the very least, that the effect I’m observing is not purely chemical – rather, it’s photo-voltaic – the result of sunlight interacting with the silica molecules in the diatoms’ shells.
Diatoms' shells are perfectly constructed to capture as much light as possible without letting any out.

Diatoms’ shells are perfectly constructed to capture as much light as possible without letting any out.

Solar panels work when photons collide with silicon atoms, producing electrons that we can gather up with wires and put to work, to sell back to the energy company or charge the battery. Diatoms may have been using this quantum-physical process to their advantage for their 250-million-year evolution. As it turns out, the most cutting edge nanoresearch in solar is using the power of these little power plants to design the next generation of solar panels. Somehow, the glass houses they build around themselves are ideal for this process of converting sunlight into pure chemical energy. They are killing the architects of this technology, the diatoms themselves, in order to get inert power from their dead carapaces.

There are implications within this research that could point to a fundamental change in how we view electrodynamics on the planet. How much of the process of photosynthesis itself is facilitated by this quantum effect between light and silicon, producing electrons for sugars to form? Do plants that have more silicon have a higher electrical energy? What kind of electromagnetic field are all these diatoms producing? If Faraday is right, a magnetic field will appear around any conductor of electricity, and will change in shape and size depending on the flow of the current and the nature of the conductor. How much of Earth’s magnetic field is being produced by life itself, namely in this case diatoms in all the surface waters of the Earth? These questions and more are why we are pursuing crowdfunding – for things like wifi-enabled volt meters, camera-enabled microscopes, solar charge controllers and diodes. Theoretically we can get this power up to compete with conventional solar panels for yield – but the question is how much will it take? We hope to answer these questions with time.
So, my idea is to harvest this energy while they are still alive. In capturing live diatoms (aka scooping up pond water into mason jars) I’ve discovered that there is a voltage, and it can be put to work with anodes. That voltage seems to go up when they are in direct sun, and – in a quirk of fate – direct starlight. Is it possible that they are “shifting gears” at night in order to process rarer but higher-energy exotic or cosmic particles? My data is beginning to say so. Thus far from my jars I have read a max output of 12.15 in waning sunlight, and the number goes up with every spaghetti sauce jar recycled. I will include diagrams of these cells that basically involve a quart mason jar, full of pond water, placed in the light – with anodes of a 6″ steel spike and a 8″ pipe of copper, connected in series to achieve the voltage I want to work with. When I get into the range of 20V I will hook up a diode and solar charge controller and see if these guys can charge up a deep cycle battery for use.
I need more equipment to harness this power and test to make sure this energy is actually coming from the algae. I've also recorded a spike at night when the stars are out, versus when it's cloudy.

I need more equipment to harness this power and test to make sure this energy is actually coming from the algae. I’ve also recorded a spike at night when the stars are out, versus when it’s cloudy.

Some measurements I’ve taken recently:

350pm 11/1/2015 7.97v clear afternoon
836pm 11/1/2015 9.34v clear
903pm 11/1/2015 8.2v rainy
1113pm 11/2/2015 9.46v cloudy cold
1120pm 11/2/2015 10.21v cloudy cold 28 jars
1033am 11,3,2015 10.76v morning ptl cloudy
1123am 11/3/2015 11.03 partial branchy sun
1127am 11/3/2015 11.6 partial branchy sun 30 jars
252pm 11/3/2015 11.56v full sun
318pm 11/3/2015 12.14v waning sun 32 jars
843am 11/4/2015 12.46v oncoming sun
913am 11/4/2015 12.6 35 jars
1045am 11/4/2015 13.25v partial sun
1200pm 11/4/2015 15.08v direct sun
1207pm 11/4/2015 16.15v direct sun 37 jars
1210pm 11/4/2015 15.39 partial cloud 16.08 30 secs later
105pm 11/4/2015 16.86 full sun just filled 39 jars – 17.39 1 min later
227pm 11/4/2015 18.3 partial sun