Innovation That Matters

Hot water springs | Photo source Aidan B on Unsplash

Bacteria that eats pollution and breathes electricity


Scientists capture bacteria from hot springs that could hold key to sustainable power supplies

Washington State University (WSU) scientists have captured bacteria that can ‘eat’ pollution and ‘breathe’ out electricity. The bacteria reside in the Heart Lake Geyser Basin area in Yellowstone National Park where temperatures range from 110 to nearly 200 degrees Fahrenheit (43 to 93 Celsius).

The scientists, led by WSU’s Abdelrhman Mohamed, used special electrodes inserted at the edge of the hot springs to coax bacteria out. To do this in an extreme environment like the hot springs, Mohamed invented a portable potentiostat. (A potentiostat is an electronic device capable of controlling the electrodes). After 32 days, the team successfully captured the bacteria in their natural environment.

The researchers believe the bacteria may help solve problems related to pollution and sustainable energy, as the bacteria can not only convert pollution to less toxic substances, but can also generate electricity.

“As these bacteria pass their electrons into metals or other solid surfaces, they can produce a stream of electricity that can be used for low‑power applications,” said WSU professor Haluk Beyenal, who supervised the work.




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