Source: Agency

This Strange Bacteria Eats Electricity, Called Potential to Generate Energy

| 13.12.21 |


Recent research has revealed that the bacterium Shewanella oneidensis has a unique ability to absorb and generate electricity. Scientists believe the strange bacteria feed on electricity and potentially generate electricity for fuel. In addition, the researchers write that the electricity-producing bacteria may be able to use energy collected from the wind or the sun to make fuel for vehicles.

"I thought this organism could feed on electricity," said Annette Rowe, a microbiologist at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. Rowe and his team have identified which gene these microbes use to absorb electricity. Researchers already know that Shewanella bacteria can move electrons back and forth across their cell walls. Meanwhile, electrons are negatively charged particles, their flow creates an electric current.

On the other hand, the researchers also do not know for sure how this strange bacteria can control the electric current. "The pathway for getting electrons in and out of the cell is like a wire. This (process) allows current to flow from the inside out, reversing the flow," said Rowe. According to him, when electrons enter the cell, the cell can use it to generate current or store energy for later use. Furthermore, he said that the electrons could later be used to make fuel. Meanwhile, Buz Barstow, a biological engineer at Cornell University in Ithaca New York has made a list of nearly 4,000 Shewanella bacteria genes including mutations or changes in genes.

Later in his study of the electricity-eating bacteria, Rowe tested mutants for the gene that forms the cellular "wire" in the Shewanella bacterium, where within the cell a gene can be deleted.

To observe which genes were removed to allow the bacteria to attract electrical electrons, the researchers tested clusters of bacteria with the gene clusters removed. "It's very difficult to find the flow of electrons, or to track electrons," he added. However, the researchers looked for ways to grow different bacterial mutations on thin metal-coated glass. Then they attached a wire to the bacteria, so that when an electric current was passed through the wire, the amount of bacteria that was absorbed or added could be measured. In the end, the researchers selected five genes that Shewanella apparently used to absorb electrons. Each gene tells the cell how to make protein. Some of these proteins, the researchers say, pick up electrons and carry them into the cell, by sending signals inside the cell that either guide the process or remove electrons.

These bacteria also produce fuel

Not only producing electricity, the bacteria Shewanella oneidensis seems to be able to produce biofuels or fuels that are different from fossil fuels. Rowe said, Shewanella bacteria is one of the electricity-producing bacteria that can take carbon atoms from carbon dioxide. These bacteria can use the electrons they absorb to make other larger molecules that can be burned as biofuels. "Knowing which genes drive bacteria to eat electrons could help scientists develop new biofuels," Rowe said. He said it would be even better if the electrons absorbed by the bacteria came from wind or solar power, where biofuels could be produced without adding carbon dioxide.

As a continuation of the study, the research team is still working to better understand how these electricity-consuming bacteria work to produce fuel.

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