Bacteria that eat pollution and inhale electricity

Scientists figured out a natural way to combat pollution by capturing bacteria that eat pollution and breathe electricity. These impressive microorganisms found in Heart Lake Geyser Basin can convert pollution while generating energy in the process.

Bacteria that eat pollution and inhale electricity

Team from Washington State University (WSU) captured the tiny microorganisms from the Yellowstone National Park, a place which is home to hot geysers ranging from about 43°C to 93°C and is set to study them.

Lead researcher Abdelrhman Mohamed said, “This was the first time such bacteria were collected in situ in an extreme environment like an alkaline hot spring.”

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These bacteria ‘eat’ pollution by turning toxic pollutants into less harmful substances and generate, or ‘breathe’ out electricity in the process. As these bacteria pass their electrons into metals or such other solid surfaces, they have the ability to produce a stream of electricity that can further be used for low-power applications.

In order to collect these microorganisms, the team left few electrodes in the edge of the extremely hot water. To achieve this, Mohamed invented a cheap portable and highly heat resistant potentiostat – an electronic device used to control a three-electrode cell.

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The electrode was then left in the water for the next 32 days after which, the bacteria successfully came out of hiding and was captured in its natural and optimum environment.

“The natural conditions found in geothermal features such as hot springs are difficult to replicate in laboratory settings,” said researcher Haluk Beyenal. “So, we developed a new strategy to enrich heat-loving bacteria in their natural environment.”

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Microbes can literally eat pollution, they are important as they hold the key to solving issues related to pollution that can be unhealthy for environs.

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Ammara Khan
Author: Ammara Khan

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