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New Power Roundup

March 28, 2008

Researchers harness electricity from bacteria.


Electricity from bacteria. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Bacteria called Shewanella generate electricity. They do it to power a chemical reaction that produces the iron they need to survive. Now scientists want to use the microbes as tiny power stations. By adding a little Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, researchers at the University of Minnesota have more than tripled the bacteria’s electrical production. The goal is to make sheets of microscopic fuel cells that could provide electricity for electronic equipment or wastewater treatment facilities.

In other power news, MIT researchers are taking an old technology called thermoelectricity and putting it to new uses. Thermoelectric materials produce electricity when you heat them up. The researchers are making them much more efficient. And eventually, they could recycle the heat produced by car engines, and make solar cells more productive. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.