Microbiologists seeking ways to eliminate pollution from waterways with microbes instead discovered that some pollution-eating bacteria commonly found in freshwater ponds can generate electricity. They present their findings today at the 105th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.
"The bacteria are capable of continuously generating electricity at levels that could be used to operate small electronic devices. As long as the bacteria are fed fuel they are able to produce electricity 24 hours a day," says Charles Milliken of the Medical University of South Carolina, who conducted the research with colleague Harold May.
The use of bacteria to create electricity is not necessarily a new idea. Other researchers have developed microbial fuel cells using simple sugars or organic waste products. What makes Millikens and Mays discovery so unique is the bacterium itself. It is the member of a genus known as Desulfitobacterium, which up until now was not known to have the capacity to generate electricity. These bacteria are most commonly known for their ability to breakdown and detoxify some of the most problematic environmental pollutants, including PCBs and some chemical solvents.
Jim Sliwa | EurekAlert!
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