Importance of Biochemistry

Bacteria could become a future source of electricity?

Bacteria source of electricity


Bacteria could become a future source of electricity :

Meeting the increasingly important energy needs in a sustainable way is the challenge to researchers in our modern society. The latter explore for this purpose all the tracks imaginable. Among which, the use of bacteria to produce electricity.

The metabolism of certain bacteria generates an electric current . But until now, researchers were struggling to recover this current for outdoor use. Today, chemists from the University of Lund (Sweden) propose a new method that seems more effective than those envisaged by their predecessors.

To extract electrons from a bacterium , it is indeed necessary to rely on a molecule capable of crossing its thick cell wall . And, to this end, Swedish researchers have created a new artificial molecule. A polymer with redox properties containing quinone fractions – of which vitamin K is a known example – mimicking natural bacterial charge carriers.

A communication mode to decrypt

“The electrons produced by the bacteria are captured and transferred to an electrode in real time ,  says Lo Gordon, professor of chemistry . What to consider bacteria as a future source of energy . But also better understand how bacteria communicate with their environment. Probably through an extracellular electron transfer.

These results could be valuable in many contexts. Bacteria can, for example, also be used to produce biofuels in the heart of microbial biofuel cells . Bacteria capable of photosynthesis could, as long as they are attached to an electrode, produce electricity when exposed to light .


Energy, directly from the bacteria to the battery

Producing electricity through bacteria is not new in itself. But Derek Lovley and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have achieved this experiment with a much higher return than what has been done so far and without any mediator.

And all thanks to  Rhodoferax ferrireducens . This anaerobic microorganism , discovered in Oyster Bay (Virginia),  is able, by a redox reaction, to extract electrons from simple sugars such as glucose or fructose .
Some of these electrons serve to develop it, while the other part is sent back to iron- rich supports . So the trick was for researchers to fix bacteria directly on  electrodes, responsible for channeling the flow of excess electrons . This manipulation allowed them to obtain  a return of 80% where current methods hardly exceed 50%.

However, since glucose oxidation is a slow process, the process can not serve as a direct source of energy . However, there is nothing to prevent  the charging of electric batteries , especially in the case of scientific equipment deployed at the bottom of the sea, where it is difficult to replace the batteries, or in the case  of pacemaker- type medical devices that would be then able to extract energy from the blood glucose.

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