Published today by the leading scientific journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the researchers have demonstrated for the first time the mechanism by which some bacteria survive by 'breathing rocks'.
The findings could be applied to help in the development of new microbe-based technologies such as fuel cells, or 'bio-batteries', powered by animal or human waste, and agents to clean up areas polluted by oil or uranium.
"This is an exciting advance in our understanding of bacterial processes in the Earth's sub-surfaces," said Prof David Richardson, of UEA's School of Biological Sciences, who is leading the project.
"It will also have important biotechnological impacts. There is potential for these rock-breathing bacteria to be used to clean-up environments contaminated with toxic organic pollutants such as oil or radioactive metals such as uranium. Use of these bacteria in microbial fuel-cells powered by sewerage or cow manure is also being explored."
The vast proportion of the world's habitable environments is populated by micro-organisms which, unlike humans, can survive without oxygen. Some of these micro-organisms are bacteria living deep in the Earth's subsurface and surviving by 'breathing rocks' – especially minerals of iron.
Iron respiration is one of the most common respiratory processes in oxygen-free habitats and therefore has wide environmental significance.
Prof Richardson said: "We discovered that the bacteria can construct tiny biological wires that extend through the cell walls and allow the organism to directly contact, and conduct electrons to, a mineral. This means that the bacteria can release electrical charge from inside the cell into the mineral, much like the earth wire on a household plug."
'Characterization of an electron conduit between bacteria and the extracellular environment' by R Hartshorne (UEA), C Reardon (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), D Ross (Pennsylvania State University), J Nuester (Pennsylvania State University), T Clarke (UEA), A Gates (UEA), P Mills (UEA), J Fredrickson (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), J Zachara (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), L Shi (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), A Beliaev (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), M Marshall (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), M Tien (Pennsylvania State University), S Brantley (Pennsylvania State University), J Butt (UEA) and D Richardson (UEA) is published on December 14 in the online early edition of PNAS.
Simon Dunford | EurekAlert!
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences