Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bacterial batteries clean up

18.01.2002


The sea bed could be one big battery.
© Almay


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.



But the bugs will just as happily pile electrons onto one electrode of an electrical circuit. As researchers at Oregon State University in Corvallis discovered early last year, you can make a battery by planting an electrode in sea-floor sediments and leaving the other in the sea water above2.

This discovery raised hopes that the seabed might be exploited as a natural low-level power source for the equipment that monitors water current and temperature, which is widely used to guide navigation.

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.

References

  1. Bond, D. R., Holmes, D. E., Tender, L. M. & Lovley, D. R. Electrode-reducing microorganisms that harvest energy from marine sediments. Science, 295, 483 - 485, (2002).
  2. Reimers, C. E., Tender, L. M., Fertig, S. & Wang, W. Title. Environmental Science & Technology, 35, 192 - 95, (2001).


PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Typhoons and marine eutrophication are probably the missing source of organic nitrogen in ecosystems
15.11.2019 | Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

nachricht Rethinking the science of plastic recycling
24.10.2019 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Atoms don't like jumping rope

Nanooptical traps are a promising building block for quantum technologies. Austrian and German scientists have now removed an important obstacle to their practical use. They were able to show that a special form of mechanical vibration heats trapped particles in a very short time and knocks them out of the trap.

By controlling individual atoms, quantum properties can be investigated and made usable for technological applications. For about ten years, physicists have...

Im Focus: Images from NJIT's big bear solar observatory peel away layers of a stellar mystery

An international team of scientists, including three researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has shed new light on one of the central mysteries of solar physics: how energy from the Sun is transferred to the star's upper atmosphere, heating it to 1 million degrees Fahrenheit and higher in some regions, temperatures that are vastly hotter than the Sun's surface.

With new images from NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), the researchers have revealed in groundbreaking, granular detail what appears to be a likely...

Im Focus: New opportunities in additive manufacturing presented

Fraunhofer IFAM Dresden demonstrates manufacturing of copper components

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden has succeeded in using Selective Electron Beam Melting (SEBM) to...

Im Focus: New Pitt research finds carbon nanotubes show a love/hate relationship with water

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are valuable for a wide variety of applications. Made of graphene sheets rolled into tubes 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, CNTs have an exceptional strength-to-mass ratio and excellent thermal and electrical properties. These features make them ideal for a range of applications, including supercapacitors, interconnects, adhesives, particle trapping and structural color.

New research reveals even more potential for CNTs: as a coating, they can both repel and hold water in place, a useful property for applications like printing,...

Im Focus: Magnets for the second dimension

If you've ever tried to put several really strong, small cube magnets right next to each other on a magnetic board, you'll know that you just can't do it. What happens is that the magnets always arrange themselves in a column sticking out vertically from the magnetic board. Moreover, it's almost impossible to join several rows of these magnets together to form a flat surface. That's because magnets are dipolar. Equal poles repel each other, with the north pole of one magnet always attaching itself to the south pole of another and vice versa. This explains why they form a column with all the magnets aligned the same way.

Now, scientists at ETH Zurich have managed to create magnetic building blocks in the shape of cubes that - for the first time ever - can be joined together to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

First International Conference on Agrophotovoltaics in August 2020

15.11.2019 | Event News

Laser Symposium on Electromobility in Aachen: trends for the mobility revolution

15.11.2019 | Event News

High entropy alloys for hot turbines and tireless metal-forming presses

05.11.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Structure of a mitochondrial ATP synthase

19.11.2019 | Life Sciences

The measurements of the expansion of the universe don't add up

19.11.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Ayahuasca compound changes brainwaves to vivid 'waking-dream' state

19.11.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>