Bacteria That Produce Electricity, Found By MIT Scientists


Deep underwater, in mines, and even in the human gut, bacteria are some microscopic power plants. These microorganisms generate electricity to adapt to the harsh conditions they live in and survive them. Now, a team of MIT scientists found those bacteria that produce electricity and how to use the germs to power everything from batteries to “biohomes.”

On the Earth, there are dozens of species of bacteria that can produce energy, but some of these microorganisms are better than others in generating electricity. The most significant issue in using bacteria as “power plants” is that they are challenging and costly to grow in laboratory settings. That slows down the scientists’ ability to come up with new technologies using bacteria.

Luckily, MIT scientists came up with a more straightforward method for sorting and identifying electricity-producing bacteria than ever before in the universe of science.

MIT Scientists Found How to Use Bacteria That Produce Electricity

“The vision is to pick out those strongest candidates to do the desirable tasks that humans want the cells to do,” explained Qianru Wang from the MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

“There is recent work suggesting there might be a much broader range of bacteria that have [electricity-producing] properties. Thus, a tool that allows you to probe those organisms could be much more important than we thought. It’s not just a small handful of microbes that can do this,” added Cullen Buie, also from MIT.

“In their new study, the researchers used their microfluidic setup to compare various strains of bacteria, each with a different, known electrochemical activity. The strains included a “wild-type” or natural strain of bacteria that actively produces electricity in microbial fuel cells, and several strains that the researchers had genetically engineered. In general, the team aimed to see whether there was a correlation between a bacteria’s electrical ability and how it behaves in a microfluidic device under a dielectrophoretic force,” reads the MIT report on the recent study on bacteria that produce electricity.


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