Skip to main content

Biologists discover electric bacteria that eat pure electrons rather than sugar, redefining the tenacity of life



Some intrepid biologists at the University of Southern California (USC) have discovered bacteria that survives on nothing but electricity — rather than food, they eat and excrete pure electrons. These bacteria yet again prove the almost miraculous tenacity of life — but, from a technology standpoint, they might also prove to be useful in enabling the creation of self-powered nanoscale devices that clean up pollution. Some of these bacteria also have the curious ability to form into ‘biocables,’ microbial nanowires that are centimeters long and conduct electricity as well as copper wires — a capability that might one day be tapped to build long, self-assembling subsurface networks for human use.
As you may recall from high school biology, almost every living organism consumes sugarto survive. When it gets right down to it, everything you eat is ultimately converted or digested into single molecules of glucose. Without going into the complexities of respiration and metabolism (ATP!), these sugars have excess electrons — and the oxygen you breathe in really wants those electrons. By ferrying electrons from sugar to oxygen, a flow of electrons — i.e. energy — is created, which is then used to carry out various vital tasks around your body (triggering electrons, beating your heart, etc.)
These special bacteria, however, don’t need no poxy sugars — instead, they cut out the middleman and feed directly on electrons. To discover these bacteria, and to cultivate them in the lab, the USC biologists quite simply scooped up some sediment from the ocean, took it back to the lab, stuck some electrodes into it, and then turned on the power. When higher voltages are pumped into the water, the bacteria “eats” electrons from the electrode; when a lower voltage is present, the bacteria “exhales” electrons onto the electrode, creating an electrical current (which could be used to power a device, if you were so inclined). The USC study very carefully controlled for other sources of nutrition — these bacteria were definitely eating electrons directly.
A beautiful photo of a geobacter metallireducens bacterium

All told, various researchers around the world have now discovered upwards of 10 different kinds of bacteria that feed on electricity — and, interestingly, they’re all pretty different (they’re not from the same family), and none of them are likeShewanella or Geobacter, two well-known bacteria that have interesting electrical properties. Kenneth Nealson of USC, speaking to New Scientist about his team’s discovery, said: “This is huge. What it means is that there’s a whole part of the microbial world that we don’t know about.”
[Read our featured story: We are slaves of electricity.]
As for the repercussions of finding bacteria that eat and excrete electrons, the most obvious use is in the growing fields of molecular motors and nanomachines. These bacteria, at their most basic, are machines that consume raw electricity — and so, with some clever (genetic?) engineering, it stands to reason that we might one day use them to power tiny machines that can perform tasks that are currently carried out by expensive, human-operated machines (cleaning up chemical spills, for example). These bacteria might also allow us to find out exactly how much energy a living cell needs to survive; put them in a test tube, and then slowly dial back the electrode voltage until they die. A cruel experiment, but one that would yield very informative results.
In a separate study a few years ago, researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark found that some electric bacteria also have the ability to form microbial nanowires — long chains of bacteria that can span several centimeters. These nanowires ferry nutrients to bacteria further down the chain, which might be stuck underneath some mud. Curiously, these nanowires are about as conductive as standard copper wires, which leads us to wonder if electric bacteria might one day be coerced into building subsurface networks for human use. It would be a little more efficient than spending billions of dollars on laying submarine cables

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Hidden Wiki

Welcome to The Hidden WikiNew hidden wiki url 2015 http://zqktlwi4fecvo6ri.onion Add it to bookmarks and spread it!!!
Editor's picks Bored? Pick a random page from the article index and replace one of these slots with it.
The Matrix - Very nice to read. How to Exit the Matrix - Learn how to Protect yourself and your rights, online and off. Verifying PGP signatures - A short and simple how-to guide. In Praise Of Hawala - Anonymous informal value transfer system. Volunteer Here are five different things that you can help us out with.
Plunder other hidden service lists for links and place them here! File the SnapBBSIndex links wherever they go. Set external links to HTTPS where available, good certificate, and same content. Care to start recording onionland's history? Check out Onionland's Museum Perform Dead Services Duties. Introduction PointsAhmia.fi - Clearnet search engine for Tor Hidden Services (allows you to add new sites to its database). DuckDuckGo - A Hidden S…

Explainer: The nico-teen brain

Explainer: The nico-teen brain The adolescent brain is especially vulnerable to the addictive effects of nicotine BY  TERESA SHIPLEY FELDHAUSEN 7:00AM, AUGUST 19, 2015 Nicotine (black triangle towards center left) tricks the nerve cell (neuron) into sending a message to release more dopamine (yellow dots). Those molecules enter the space (synapse) between one nerve cell and the next. When they get picked up by neighboring cells, this gives users a feel-good high. It also creates the risk of addiction and other health problems.  EMail Print Twitter Facebook Reddit Google+ NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON DRUG ABUSE, ADAPTED BY J. HIRSHFELD Nicotine is the addictive chemical in tobacco smoke and e-cigarette vapors. And doctors say the teenage brain is no place for it to end up. Nicotine can reach the brain within seven seconds of puffing on a cigar, hookah, cigarette or electronic cigarette.
The area of the brain responsible for emotions and controlling our wild impulses is known as the prefrontal c…

fix idm integration on chrome

Chrome Browser IntegrationI do not see IDM extension in Chrome extensions list. How can I install it? 
How to configure IDM extension for Chrome?Please note that all IDM extensions that can be found in Google Store are fake and should not be used. You need to install IDM extension manually from IDM installation folder. Read in step 2 how to do it.

1. Please update IDM to the latest version by using "IDM Help->Check for updates..." menu item

2. I don't see "IDM Integration module" extension in the list of extensions in Chrome. How can I install it?

Press on Chrome menu (arrow 1 on the image), select "Settings" menu item (arrow 2 on the image) and then select "Extensions" tab (arrow 3 on the image). After this open IDM installation folder ("C:\Program Files (x86)\Internet Download Manager" by default, arrow 4 on the image) and drag and drop "IDMGCExt.crx" (arrow 5 on the image) file into "Extensions" page opened in…