Computer Electronics

DARPA seeks ways to harvest energy from microscopic sea life

22 March 2024

The U.S. military is seeking to develop ways to harvest energy from microscopic sea life — such as dissolved organic matter, phytoplankton, bacteria and microscopic zooplankton — and turn it into electric power.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have issued an agency announcement (HR001124S0010) for the BioLogical Undersea Energy (BLUE) program.

BLUE seeks to develop self-refueling electric power generation that enable remote ocean sensors, such as seabed-mounted sensor and profiling systems — to operate longer than possible using batteries alone.

The program is expected to demonstrate a sustainable, low-environmental-impact source of electric power that offers ultralong endurance and high payload capacity to remote ocean sensors, for potential applications in national security, understanding dynamics of marine environments and monitoring marine climate change.

BLUE could potentially offer improvements over batteries and other types of power supplies by enabling high capability and long endurance.

BLUE technologies will reportedly:

  • self-refuel on input materials available in many marine environments
  • prevent capture of macroscopic living marine organisms
  • operate while submerged
  • will be durable, reliable, deployable
  • operate in diverse locations and independently with consistent electrical power production
  • have negligible ecological and environmental impact

BLUE researchers are expected to choose input materials like dissolved organic matter, phytoplankton and zooplankton to convert to electrical power. Meanwhile, each team will develop two separate prototypes that self-capture and convert input materials to electrical power while fully submerged without user intervention.

Additionally, the BLUE power supplies are expected to interface with the marine environment without corrosion and the fouling of internal components.

Find more information on the BLUE Program.

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