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From bacteria to electricity: The future of green energy
Date:4/19/2010

gineering at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), has been a central figure in the development of the fuel cell. "We work on the intersection of microbiology and electrochemistry," Tender said. "The most fascinating aspect of the program is how these micro-organisms function and the mechanisms by which they take fuel, metabolize it and generate electrical current."

Working with scientists from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Tender and his team started to investigate electricity-generating microorganisms. The most promising, called Geobacter, was discovered in the Potomac River immediately downstream of NRL.

The discovery of the tiny Geobacter microbe by Dr. Derek Lovley of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst holds the key to understanding microbial energy conversion. Geobacter uses its hair-like extensions, or pili, to generate electricity from mud and wastewater. Researchers have developed a strain of Geobacter that is eight times more efficient than other strains at producing power.

"Essentially, they could go on for years without any kind of battery replacement," Chrisey said. For this reason, Navy researchers at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) Pacific are using fuel cell-powered devices to track Pacific-endangered green sea turtles.

"The device is light, efficient and environmentally friendly," said Bart Chadwick, SPAWAR's Head of Environmental Sciences Branch. "The technology is helping track sea turtle populations, if they are feeding near Navy shorefront facilities, which informs Navy decision-making on port operations or construction."


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Contact: Peter Vietti
pvietti@navy.mil
703-696-5031
Office of Naval Research
Source:Eurekalert  

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