Microbe found to be able to use natural conductivity to extract electrons - 03/12/14

Microbe found to be able to use natural conductivity to extract electrons

A team of researchers from Harvard University have discovered that a commonly found bacterium can use natural conductivity to pull electrons from minerals in the surrounding soil, in a process called extracellular electron transfer (EET). In its natural environment, Rhodopseudomonas palustris uses iron in the soil to provide it with the electrons it needs for fuel energy generation. However in the lab, it was found that it was not critical to the process, after the researchers attached an electrode to the bacterium and observed that it could take in electrons from non-ferrous sources. 

This method of drawing electrons from the soil allows surface dwelling bacteria to stay in the sun, for which they are dependent on for generating energy. As well as using naturally conductive minerals in the soil as a source of eltrodes, when the microbes take electrons from iron, they created iron oxide crystals, which can act as ‘circuits’ in the soil.  “That’s a game-changer. This research… could change the way we think about the interactions between the aerobic and anaerobic worlds” explains lead scientist Peter Girguis. 

There have been theories that suggest that EET performing microbes could be used to generate electricity in fuel cells. However, Girguis thinks that his research would have more useful applications in the pharmaceutical industry. 

Credit © abhijith3747 / Fotolia
Credit © abhijith3747 / Fotolia

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