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Battery-Like Bacterial Enzyme Stores Energy Biologically

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Assoc. Professor László Kálmán

Clean energy is now an almost achieved dream, especially with the newly reported Concordia University (Canada) physicists’ research findings. The researchers led by Associate Professor László Kálmán have been able to modify a battery-like enzyme so as to yield carbon-neutral energy.  The study showed that there is possibility of extending the length of time the bacterial enzyme can store up energy- that is, from seconds to hours.

The specific bacterial enzyme has the capacity to capture solar energy and become charged much like what happens in a normal solar-panel battery. In the presence of sunlight, a charging system is induced in the bacteria such that on one end it becomes positively charged while on the other end a negative charge is found. However, this energy is spent almost as fast as it is produced.

The investigating scientists carrying out the study devised a way to maintain the charge-separated state of the enzyme for longer. This would only be achieved if the bacteria could be kept from consuming that stored energy and also from inhibiting the loss. The mechanism they used involved adding some specific molecules to the bacteria; these molecules altered the bacterial shape, and thereby achieved a prolonged electric potential lifespan.

Naturally, the enzyme is embedded perfectly in the bacteria’s outer layer which is biologically termed as the lipid membrane. This configuration helps the bacteria to recombine charges quickly and efficiently so as to recover the induced charge-separated state. If this structure is configured differently like in the Concordia project, the mismatch thus formed causes a disharmony between the lipid layer and the enzyme. This leads to a difficulty in the charge recombination and makes the potential difference (stored charge) to last longer.

The present study shows a promising future in the use of photosynthesis (the natural energy-converting mechanism) and the molecules involved to create a carbon-neutral bio-system that stores energy. Such a biocompatible battery would be so phenomenal in replacing the conventional toxic ones that are applied even in surgery- putting highly susceptible patients to risk. That future is not too far away!

[via eurekalert]

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