Bacteria-Based Microborgs Can Replace Traditional Batteries

The electricity used by mankind is mainly generated using technologies based on renewable or chemical energy sources. Meanwhile, there are whole classes of creatures that can generate electricity as a result of metabolism. German experts have learned to use bacteria as food sources.

Many living organisms are able to produce electricity for hunting, protection, food search and many other purposes. It is impossible to use eels on an industrial scale for the extraction of electricity. However, exoelectrogenic bacteria remain that naturally produce electrons during metabolic processes. Previously, it was believed that such electricity could not be controlled and captured on the electrode.

A team of researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany used an anaerobic bacteria class Shewanella oneidensis , turning them into microscopic cyborgs that produce electricity. As a trap, a porous hydrogel consisting of carbon nanotubes and silica nanoparticles intertwined with DNA strands was used. These nanocomposite materials are very attractive for exoelectrogenic bacteria, which led to their sedimentation on a trap.

At the moment, it was possible to make the bacteria act as a conductor for several hours and produce electrochemical activity, which can be captured by the electrode. In addition, after adding an enzyme that cuts DNA strands, scientists were able to begin to control this process.

“To our knowledge, such a complex functional biohybrid material has been described for the first time. In general, our results show that the potential use of such materials may even go beyond microbial biosensors, bioreactors and fuel cell systems, ”the researchers said.

According to scientists, such tiny bacteria-based fuel cells would one day be able to power smartphones and other mobile devices. 

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