Dec 20, 2012
Researchers in the U.S. and U.K. may have come across a novel solution to our energy problems: batteries made from bacteria. A variety of bacteria which is extremely common in the world’s waterways has been demonstrated to generate its own electrical charge when exposed to heavy metals. The bacteria, Shewanella oneidensis, actually lives off of iron and heavy metals, and uses these substances to create energy. Special proteins on the surface of the bacteria interact with iron-containing minerals and, in the process, create a charge, resulting in the production of electricity.
While the current uses of this knowledge are essentially limited, the potential for future development is remarkable. Some suggest that the mechanism through which the bacteria create an electric current could be used to develop “biobatteries,” which would have a longer lifespan and create fewer environmentally harmful waste products. Others suggest that that bacteria could be used to reduce [exposure to toxic substances] by removing harmful heavy metals from contaminated soil.
Whatever its eventual application, count this development as a positive for the future of energy and environmentalism.