Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Stratospheric superbugs offer new source of power

Date:
February 21, 2012
Source:
Newcastle University
Summary:
Bacteria normally found 30 kilometers above Earth have been identified as highly efficient generators of electricity. Bacillus stratosphericus -- a microbe commonly found in high concentrations in the stratosphere -- is a key component of a new 'super' biofilm that has been engineered by a team of scientists from Newcastle University.

Scientists have engineered a new super biofilm, a key component of which is Bacillus stratosphericus -- a microbe commonly found in high concentrations in Earth's stratosphere.
Credit: Andrey Armyagov / Fotolia

Bacteria normally found 30 kilometres above Earth have been identified as highly efficient generators of electricity.

Bacillus stratosphericus -- a microbe commonly found in high concentrations in the stratosphere -- is a key component of a new 'super' biofilm that has been engineered by a team of scientists from Newcastle University.

Isolating 75 different species of bacteria from the Wear Estuary, Country Durham, UK, the team tested the power-generation of each one using a microbial fuel cell (MFC).

By selecting the best species of bacteria, a kind of microbial "pick and mix," they were able to create an artificial biofilm, doubling the electrical output of the MFC from 105 Watts per cubic metre to 200 Watts per cubic metre.

While still relatively low, this would be enough power to run an electric light and could provide a much needed power source in parts of the world without electricity.

Among the 'super' bugs was B. stratosphericus, a microbe normally found in the atmosphere but brought down to Earth as a result of atmospheric cycling processes and isolated by the team from the bed of the River Wear.

Publishing their findings Feb. 21 in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Environmental Science and Technology,

Grant Burgess, Professor of Marine Biotechnology at Newcastle University, said the research demonstrated the "potential power of the technique."

"What we have done is deliberately manipulate the microbial mix to engineer a biofilm that is more efficient at generating electricity," he explains.

"This is the first time individual microbes have been studied and selected in this way. Finding B. stratosphericus was quite a surprise but what it demonstrates is the potential of this technique for the future -- there are billions of microbes out there with the potential to generate power."

The use of microbes to generate electricity is not a new concept and has been used in the treatment of waste water and sewage plants.

Microbial fuel cells, which work in a similar way to a battery, use bacteria to convert organic compounds directly into electricity by a process known as bio-catalytic oxidation.

A biofilm -- or 'slime' -- coats the carbon electrodes of the MFC and as the bacteria feed, they produce electrons which pass into the electrodes and generate electricity.

Until now, the biofilm has been allowed to grow un-checked but this new study shows for the first time that by manipulating the biofilm you can significantly increase the electrical output of the fuel cell.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the study identified a number of electricity-generating bacteria.

As well as B. stratosphericus, other electricity-generating bugs in the mix were Bacillus altitudinis -- another bug from the upper atmosphere -- and a new member of the phylum Bacteroidetes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Newcastle University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jinwei Zhang, Enren Zhang, Keith Scott, J. Grant Burgess. Enhanced Electricity Production by Use of Reconstituted Artificial Consortia of Estuarine Bacteria Grown as Biofilms. Environmental Science & Technology, 2012; 120221192908002 DOI: 10.1021/es2020007

Cite This Page:

Newcastle University. "Stratospheric superbugs offer new source of power." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120221212614.htm>.
Newcastle University. (2012, February 21). Stratospheric superbugs offer new source of power. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120221212614.htm
Newcastle University. "Stratospheric superbugs offer new source of power." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120221212614.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) Hurricane Gonzalo pounded Bermuda with wind and heavy surf on Friday, bearing down on the tiny British territory as a powerful Category 3 storm that could raise coastal seas as much as 10 feet. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Powerful hurricane could hit Bermuda this weekend, and even if it misses it will likely do some damage. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) One of the largest volcanic eruptions in centuries is occurring on Iceland. The volcano Bardarbunga is producing high levels of sulfur dioxide. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins