Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

WSU researchers discover unique microbial photosynthesis

09.01.2017

Finding could be used for waste treatment, energy

Researchers at Washington State University have discovered a new type of cooperative photosynthesis that could be used in engineering microbial communities for waste treatment and bioenergy production.


Conceptual model of a new type of anaerobic photosynthesis of G. sulfurreducens and P. aestuarii via direct, inter-species electron transfer.

Credit: Washington State University

They report today on the unique metabolic process seen for the first time in a pair of bacteria in Nature Communications.

Photosynthetic bacteria account for nearly half of the world's food production and carbon-based organic material. The research could also improve understanding of lake ecology.

Phototroph + electron generator

Prosthecochloris aestaurii , a green-tinged, plant-like microbe, comes from the extreme environment of Hot Lake, a high salinity lake in northern Okanogan County near Oroville, Wash. Discovered and identified a few years ago by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Southern Illinois University, the bacterium is able to photosynthesize, using sunlight along with elemental sulfur or hydrogen sulfide to grow.

The researchers noticed that P. aestuarii tended to gather around a carbon electrode, an electricity conductor that they were operating in Hot Lake. The researchers isolated and grew P. aestuarii and determined that, similar to the way half of a battery works, the bacterium is able to grab electrons from a solid electrode and use them for photosynthesis. The pink-colored Geobacter sulfurreducens meanwhile, is known for its ability to convert waste organic matter to electricity in microbial fuel cells. The bacterium is also used in environmental cleanup.

G. sulfurreducens, like animals and humans, can't photosynthesize. It consumes organic compounds, such as acetate, and "breathes" out carbon dioxide.

The bacterium is known for its ability to donate electrons to a solid electrode. As it consumes acetate, it generates electrons, which can be collected as electricity.

Microbes paired up in WSU lab

Led by Haluk Beyenal, the Paul Hohenschuh Distinguished Professor in the WSU Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, and postdoctoral researcher Phuc Ha, the research team surmised that the bacteria might be able to help each other grow and put them together in the lab.

The researchers found that P. aestuarii could accept electrons generated from G. sulfurreducens and use them in a new type of anaerobic photosynthesis never before seen. Similar to how a battery or fuel cell works, the bacteria transfer electrons. They feed off each other to grow under conditions in which neither could grow independently.

Ecology-friendly implications

From an ecological perspective, this new form of metabolism may play an important role in carbon cycling in oxygen free zones of poorly mixed freshwater lakes. It may also present new possibilities for engineering microbial communities for waste treatment and bioenergy production.

"We think this could be a common bio-electrochemical process in nature," said Beyenal, whose team is working to better understand the electron transfer mechanism.

###

The work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Researchers from PNNL and China University of Geoscience also collaborated on the project.

The work is in keeping with WSU's Grand Challenges, a suite of research initiatives aimed at large societal issues. It is particularly relevant to the challenge of sustainable resources and its theme of meeting sustainable energy needs while protecting the environment.

Media Contact

Haluk Beyenal
beyenal@wsu.edu
509-335-6607

 @WSUNews

http://www.wsu.edu 

Haluk Beyenal | EurekAlert!

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht System draws power from daily temperature swings
16.02.2018 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

nachricht Researchers at Kiel University develop extremely sensitive sensor system for magnetic fields
15.02.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

Im Focus: Autonomous 3D scanner supports individual manufacturing processes

Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).

Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fingerprints of quantum entanglement

16.02.2018 | Information Technology

'Living bandages': NUST MISIS scientists develop biocompatible anti-burn nanofibers

16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>