Dr. Tom Clarke and researchers at the University of East Anglia created a synthetic version of Shewanella oneidensis, a marine bacterium. They only utilized the proteins believed to shuttle the electrons from the inside of the microbe to a rock and inserted them into the layers of vesicles, small capsules of lipids similar to the ones that make up a bacterial membrane. Chemicals produce an electric current through their cell membranes when they touch a mineral or metal.
Clarke and his team tested to see if the electrons traveled between an electron donor on the inside and an iron bearing mineral on the outside. They did so efficiently.
That bacteria have an effect on minerals and metals is not a new discovery, but this is the first time it has been shown to discharge an electrical current directly.
Scientists are excited because this discovery may lead to the creation of clean electricity from bacteria, otherwise known as “bio-batteries.” Bio-batteries would be perfect for use underground, where solar power is unavailable.