Students from Bielefeld engineered a bio-battery, which converts glucose into energy using Escherichia coli (E-Coli) bacteria. Their project aims to find an alternative energy source, which reduces environmental pollution caused by used batteries.
If successful, the new bio-battery will enter one of the biggest and most important student competitions in synthetic biology: ‘international Genetically Engineered Machine competition’ (iGEM) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, USA. In order to enter the competition, the guys need 20,000 Euros to cover participation fees, travel cost and accommodation, so they are looking for sponsors.
The new bio-battery, referred to as Microbial fuel cell (MFC), works in the same way as conventional batteries, having both anode and cathode components. The only difference is that the anode area is filled with bacteria instead of electrolytes.
These bacteria break down glucose, producing electrons, which are then moved in an external circuit to the cathode. This circuit provides enough electricity to power small devices such as lights or motors. After conducting various laboratory tests on bacterial organisms, the students found that the E-Coli bacteria can produce electricity most efficiently.
Although the invention is still under development, the team is already reporting great results at the initial stages. After successfully isolating bacterial genes that carry the electrons, the students are now busy with constructing the apparatus for electricity production.
One of the main advantages of the bio-battery, according to the inventors, is the fact that unlike any other renewable energy source, it is not dependent on weather conditions. What’s more, the E-Coli bacteria are known to multiply with incredible speed when supplied with substrates, making them an ideal and inexhaustible source.
Good luck, guys!