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. (Read more microbes stories.)