Electricity-eating bacteria are all around us, says researchers

Brittany A. Roston - Jul 17, 2014, 8:43pm CDT
Electricity-eating bacteria are all around us, says researchers

Bacteria that feed on pure electricity are all around us, say researchers who have demonstrated their findings by growing the bacteria directly on battery electrodes. In their habitat, the bacteria survive on — and subsequently excrete — pure energy.

Research on these life forms is being performed by biologists across the land, with one such collective being the University of Southern California’s Kenneth Nealson and his team. The results of their experiments were presented at the Goldschmidt geoscience conference in California in June.

Nealson says the discovery isn’t entirely surprising, but described the electric bacteria’s consumption of pure energy as “truly foreign…in a sense, alien.” One of Nealson’s students, Annette Rowe, has identified eight varieties of this bacteria, each one said to be very different from the others.

“This is huge,” he said. “What it means is that there’s a whole part of the microbial world that we don’t know about.” What functions could these tiny life forms serve in the future? One given example is their usage in cleaning up pollution, being able to harvest their own power from the energy all around them.

SOURCE: New Scientist

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