In the fuel cell study, Lüttge will use computer models to estimate how the bacteria will behave under different circumstances. Running tests on the computer will save time and money by allowing laboratory experiments to focus on best candidate approaches.
"One of the hallmarks of our approach is the vigorous feedback between our computer models and our laboratory work," said Lüttge. "The computer simulations help us perform better experiments, and the laboratory tests help us design better simulation, and the overall combination saves time and money."
In addition to the computational modeling, Lüttge will contribute his experimental skills in an imaging technique called Vertical Scanning Interferometry. The technique, which he helped create in the 1990s, combines information from multiple beams of light to resolve sample features as small as one-billionth of a meter. In previous studies with Nealson, Lüttge used the technique to examine how the cigar-shaped Shewanella attach themselves to crystalline surfaces. The researchers found that Shewanella would lay flat and orient themselves relative to minute defects in the crystal's surface.
"We still have a lot to learn about the chemical cues that the Shewanella use ?both individually and in colonies ?but they are incredibly efficient at converting organic inputs to electricity, so we are confident that they'll be a great candidate for our fuel cells," Lüttge said.