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Researchers Discover That Microbes Can Produce Miniature Electrical Wires

f most soils. However, prior to the discovery of its conductive pili it was unknown how this electron transfer might take place.

The conductive pili that Geobacter produces may have a variety of applications for the electronics industry. Ultrafine wires, often referred to as nanowires, are required for further miniaturization of electronic devices. Manufacturing nanowires from more traditional materials such as metals, silica, or carbon is difficult and expensive. However, it is easy to grow billions of Geobacter cells in the laboratory and harvest the microbial nanowires that they produce. Furthermore, by altering the DNA sequence of the genes that encode for microbial nanowires, it may be possible to produce nanowires with different properties and functions.

Another interesting implication of this research is that it suggests a mechanism for microbes to share energy in a mini-power grid. The nanowire pili of individual Geobacter often intertwine, suggesting a strategy by which Geobacter might share electricity.

Geobacter was discovered by Lovley in 1987 at the muddy bottom of the Potomac River in Washington D.C., and over the past 18 years his research has earned widespread media attention and major funding from government and private sources. The tiny organisms, widely found in soils and aquatic sediments, have demonstrated promise as cleaners of toxic spills and generators of energy. They are anaerobic bacteria (living without oxygen) that use metals to gain energy the way humans and other organisms use oxygen. They are distributed throughout the world in a wide variety of soils and sediments. Geobacter have been used to help remove contaminants from underground petroleum spills and landfill pollution of groundwater, as well as remove uranium from contaminated groundwater at a number of U.S. Department of Energy sites.

The title of the paper published in Nature is “Extracellular Electron Transfer Via Microbial Nanowires.?The autho
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Source:UMass Amherst News


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