Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Researchers Make Breakthrough in Race to Create ‘Bio-batteries’

Published: Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Scientists at the University of East Anglia have made an important breakthrough in the quest to generate clean electricity from bacteria.

Findings published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) show that proteins on the surface of bacteria can produce an electric current by simply touching a mineral surface.

The research shows that it is possible for bacteria to lie directly on the surface of a metal or mineral and transfer electrical charge through their cell membranes. This means that it is possible to 'tether' bacteria directly to electrodes - bringing scientists a step closer to creating efficient microbial fuel cells or 'bio-batteries'.

The team collaborated with researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington State in the US. The project was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the US Department of Energy.

Shewanella oneidensis is part of a family of marine bacteria. The research team created a synthetic version of this bacteria using just the proteins thought to shuttle the electrons from the inside of the microbe to the rock.

They inserted these proteins into the lipid layers of vesicles, which are small capsules of lipid membranes such as the ones that make up a bacterial membrane. Then they tested how well electrons travelled between an electron donor on the inside and an iron-bearing mineral on the outside.

Lead researcher Dr Tom Clarke from UEA's school of Biological Sciences said: "We knew that bacteria can transfer electricity into metals and minerals, and that the interaction depends on special proteins on the surface of the bacteria. But it was not been clear whether these proteins do this directly or indirectly though an unknown mediator in the environment.

"Our research shows that these proteins can directly 'touch' the mineral surface and produce an electric current, meaning that is possible for the bacteria to lie on the surface of a metal or mineral and conduct electricity through their cell membranes.

"This is the first time that we have been able to actually look at how the components of a bacterial cell membrane are able to interact with different substances, and understand how differences in metal and mineral interactions can occur on the surface of a cell.

"These bacteria show great potential as microbial fuel cells, where electricity can be generated from the breakdown of domestic or agricultural waste products.

"Another possibility is to use these bacteria as miniature factories on the surface of an electrode, where chemicals reactions take place inside the cell using electrical power supplied by the electrode through these proteins."

Biochemist Liang Shi of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory said: "We developed a unique system so we could mimic electron transfer like it happens in cells. The electron transfer rate we measured was unbelievably fast - it was fast enough to support bacterial respiration."

The finding is also important for understanding how carbon works its way through the atmosphere, land and oceans.

"When organic matter is involved in reducing iron, it releases carbon dioxide and water. And when iron is used as an energy source, bacteria incorporate carbon dioxide into food. If we understand electron transfer, we can learn how bacteria controls the carbon cycle," said Shi.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Genome-Editing Position Statement
A group of leading UK research organisations has today issued an initial joint statement in support of the continued use of CRISPR-Cas9 and other genome-editing techniques in preclinical research.
Monday, September 07, 2015
Expanding the DNA Alphabet: 'Extra' DNA Base Found to be Stable in Mammals
A rare DNA base, previously thought to be a temporary modification, has been shown to be stable in mammalian DNA, suggesting that it plays a key role in cellular function.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Global Food Security (GFS) Develops New Funding Programme
New programme of research to tackle resilience of the food system.
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
£4M to Fund Important Food Crops from BBSRC and NERC
Research projects designed with industry partners to maximize impact.
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
Controlling Leaf Blotch Disease In Wheat
Scientists have found a genetic mechanism that could stop the spread of a "devastating" disease threatening wheat crops.
Thursday, February 05, 2015
Rising Temperatures Predicted to Lower Wheat Yields
An international consortium of researchers has used big data sets to predict the effects climate change on global wheat yields.
Friday, December 26, 2014
New Test For Detecting Horse Meat
New test compares differences in chemical compositions of the fat found in meats.
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
UK And India Collaborate On Future-Proof Crops
Drought-tolerant tomatoes, improved wheat and grass pea could provide crops for the future.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Drugs Used to Treat Lung Disease Work With the Body Clock
Scientists from The University of Manchester have discovered why medication to treat asthma and pneumonia can become ineffective.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Researchers Use ‘Big Data’ Approach to Map the Relationships Between Human and Animal Diseases
EID2 database used to prevent and tackle disease outbreaks around the globe.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
TGAC at the Forefront of Next Generation Sequencing Capability
The Genome Analysis Centre adds two Illumina HiSeq 2500 machines to its platform suite.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
UK Diet and Health Research Awarded £4M
Funding awarded to six projects investigating diet and health to enable the food and drink industry to meet the needs of UK consumers.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Better Understanding of Disease Resistance Genes in Crops
Effector-triggered defence concept describes how plants protect themselves against the apoplast.
Friday, June 06, 2014
Investment Provides Access to the World’s Most Advanced Crystallography Technology
The UK community will benefit thanks to a £5.64M investment from UK research funders.
Tuesday, June 03, 2014
Public-private Research Partnership to Support Sustainable Agricultural Systems
The partnership will support projects that will help provide solutions to key challenges affecting the sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.
Friday, May 23, 2014
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
Kitchen Utensils Can Spread Bacteria Between Foods
In a recent study researchers found that produce that contained bacteria would contaminate other produce items through the continued use of knives or graters—the bacteria would latch on to the utensils commonly found in consumers' homes and spread to the next item.
Exploring the Causes of Cancer
Queen's research to understand the regulation of a cell surface protein involved in cancer.
Safer, Faster Way To Remove Pollutants From Water
Using nanoparticles filled with enzymes proves more effective than current methods.
Drug May Prevent Life-Threatening Muscle Loss in Advanced Cancers
New data describes how an experimental drug can stop life-threatening muscle wasting (cachexia) associated with advanced cancers and restore muscle health.
Ancient Viral Molecules Essential for Human Development
Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Novel Tumor Treatment
In the first published results from a $386,000 National Cancer Institute grant awarded earlier this year, a paper by Scott Verbridge and Rafael Davalos has been published.
Speeding Up the Process of Making Vaccines
System uses a freeze-dry concept to develop "just-add-water" solution.
Chemical Design Made Easier
Rice University scientists prepare elusive organocatalysts for drug and fine chemical synthesis.
New Analysis Technique for Chiral Activity in Molecules
Professor Hyunwoo Kim of the Chemistry Department and his research team have developed a technique that can easily analyze the optical activity of charged compounds by using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos