The sea bed could be one big battery.
Researchers name the microbes that could produce power by munching pollution.
Bacteria could clear up oil spills and generate electricity at the same time. US scientists have identified microbes that produce power as they digest organic waste1.
The bacteria strip electrons from carbon in ocean sediments to convert it into the carbon dioxide they need for metabolism and growth. Usually the organisms just dump the electrons onto iron or sulphate minerals on the ocean floor.
The Oregon team knew that the electrical energy was coming from microorganisms, but they didn’t know which creatures were involved. Now Derek Lovley of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and colleagues have identified the culprits by making sediment batteries in the laboratory and analysing the bacteria clustered on one of the electrodes. The organisms belong to the family Geobacteraceae.
Lovley’s team also found that some freshwater-dwelling members of the family can do the same thing. These might be put to work in aquifers contaminated by oil or sewage, Lovley suggests.
Freshwater Geobacteraceae can break down petroleum in polluted groundwater on their own, but are often hampered by the lack of sufficient electron acceptors (such as the iron minerals). By providing these bacteria with an electrode that carts the electrons away, researchers could help bioremediation to proceed - and can capture a little electricity into the bargain.
PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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