Batteries/Bacteria-Powered 031001

(Sept. 2003) Ernst Moritz Arndt University in Greifswald, Germany create a prototype microbial fuel cell that utilizes energy from Escherichia coli as it feeds on sugar.  Hydrogen, and suspected bacteria feeding electrons directly onto the anode, are responsible for the output of energy.   The platinum anode with a conducing polymer slows down contamination, which has been a problem in previous research. The prototype can make up to 150 miliAmps which is enough to drive a medical ventilator.

To reference this information, see the following article:
Schröder, U., Nießen, J & Scholtz F., ďA generation of microbial fuel cells with current outputs boosted by more than one order of magnitude, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 42 2880-2883, (2003)
Sept. 2003) The University of Massachusetts - Amherst develops battery that uses iron-breathing bacteria to eat sugars in carbohydrates to make electricity.  The microbe, Rhodoferax ferrireducens, can convert up to 80% of the sugar electrons to current.  However, it is a slow process.  If one cup of sugar could light up a 60 Watt bulb for 17 hours, the process to do so would take weeks; however, even  if progress  is slow, the  bacteria  continues to work uninterrupted.

So, what could be potential uses in the future? The U.S. Department of Defense, which funded the research, is seeking innovative ways to power scientific monitoring equipment at the bottom of the ocean which it is extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible, to change traditional batteries.  Suggestion has also been made that glucose in the blood stream could possibly power medical devices such as pacemakers.

Details on the research by Swades Chaudhuri Lovley can be found in the October issue off Natural Biotechnology .