Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have discovered a tiny biological structure that is highly electrically conductive. This breakthrough helps describe how microorganisms can clean up groundwater and produce electricity from renewable resources. It may also have applications in the emerging field of nanotechnology, which develops advanced materials and devices in extremely small dimensions.
The findings of microbiologist Derek R. Lovley’s research team are published in the June 23rd issue of Nature , an international science journal. Researchers found that the conductive structures, known as “microbial nanowires,” are produced by a novel microorganism known as Geobacter . The nanowires are incredibly fine, only 3-5 nanometers in width (20,000 times finer than a human hair), but quite durable and more than a thousand times long as they are wide.
“Such long, thin conductive structures are unprecedented in biology,” said Lovley. “This completely changes our concept of how microorganisms can handle electrons, and it also seems likely that microbial nanowires could be useful materials for the development of extremely small electronic devices.”
Derek Lovley | EurekAlert!
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