'Bio-Batteries:' Microbe Energy Comes Closer

Scientists move closer to harnessing bacteria's natural electricity
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2011 5:06 AM CDT
Researchers focused on a type of marine bacteria that can survive in environments with or without oxygen.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Microbe-powered devices could be just a decade away thanks to new findings about how the tiny organisms release natural electric charges, researchers say. Scientists have discovered atom-size "wires" sticking through the cell walls of bacteria. The finding will allow researchers to design electrodes that can pick up electrical charges emitted by the bacteria, creating "bio-batteries" efficient enough to make the microbes a viable power source.

"We should be able to use this finding to harvest more electricity from the bacteria," the lead researcher tells Reuters. "Until now it's been a bit like trying to build a radio when you don't know what type or size of battery you are going to put into it. Now we have a blueprint of what the battery looks like." The team's finding, he says, should also help speed up the development of ways to use bacteria to tackle oil and uranium pollution.

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