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September 15, 2009

A microbe generates electricity from mud.


Energy from evolution. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Generating electricity from waste is no longer the stuff of science fiction. And a microbe called Geobacter is now making it even easier. The organism converts electrons produced naturally by mud and other organic material into electricity. But the electrical current Geobacter generates isn’t very strong. So scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, put selective pressure on the bacteria, resulting in a mutated strain that’s capable of producing at least eight times as much electricity as the original. Microbiologist Derek Lovley heads the project.

DEREK LOVLEY (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
It could be a useful potential source of energy.

For now, Geobacter fuel cells are being used to run electronics on the bottom of the ocean, but could eventually power lights, recharge medical devices, and even provide energy for vehicles. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAAS, the science society.