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U.S. scientists detect electricity-breathing bacteria

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Staff Writer | Monday March 11, 2019 6:12AM ET
electricity-breathing bacteria
World   This is the first time these microbes were collected in an extreme environment

During a spring experiment in Yellowstone National Park, U.S. scientists identified heat-adapted bacteria that breathe electricity through the solid carbon surface of electrodes, published the Journal of Power Sources.


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This is the first time these microbes were collected in an extreme environment like an alkaline hot spring, said the study's lead author, Abdelrhman Mohamed, of Washington State University, who added that temperatures at the springs ranged from about 43 to 93 degrees Celsius.

In the research, specialists left electrodes inserted on the edge of the water at Yellowstone hot springs for 32 days, hoping to attract bacteria that can eat and breathe electricity.

Due to the fact that the natural conditions found in geothermal features are difficult to replicate in laboratory environments, Mohamed invented a low-cost electronic device to collect bacteria in an extreme environment during those days.

This portable system could control electrodes immersed in thermal waters for long periods of time.

According to the experts' conclusions, these small creatures may have a key to solving some of the greatest challenges facing humanity, such as environmental pollution and sustainable energy.

These microorganisms can eat pollution by converting toxic pollutants into less harmful substances and generating electricity in the process, Mohamed said.

According to study co-author Haluk Beyenal, as these bacteria pass their electrons to metals or other solid surfaces, they can produce a flow of electricity that would be used for low-consumption applications.

 

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