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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Holy Crap, Electric Bacteria

Geobacter rockin' the electron gobble.

New Scientist reports:
Unlike any other life on Earth, these extraordinary bacteria use energy in its purest form – they eat and breathe electrons – and they are everywhere.

STICK an electrode in the ground, pump electrons down it, and they will come: living cells that eat electricity. We have known bacteria to survive on a variety of energy sources, but none as weird as this. Think of Frankenstein's monster, brought to life by galvanic energy, except these "electric bacteria" are very real and are popping up all over the place.

Unlike any other living thing on Earth, electric bacteria use energy in its purest form – naked electricity in the shape of electrons harvested from rocks and metals. We already knew about two types, Shewanella and Geobacter. Now, biologists are showing that they can entice many more out of rocks and marine mud by tempting them with a bit of electrical juice. Experiments growing bacteria on battery electrodes demonstrate that these novel, mind-boggling forms of life are essentially eating and excreting electricity. . . .

The discovery of electric bacteria shows that some very basic forms of life can do away with sugary middlemen and handle the energy in its purest form – electrons, harvested from the surface of minerals. "It is truly foreign, you know," says Nealson. "In a sense, alien."

Nealson's team is one of a handful that is now growing these bacteria directly on electrodes, keeping them alive with electricity and nothing else – neither sugars nor any other kind of nutrient. The highly dangerous equivalent in humans, he says, would be for us to power up by shoving our fingers in a DC electrical socket.

This modern world is just Too.Fucking.Weird. Can I please have a ticket back to the nice, quiet, normal 20th century? Pleeease?


Frank said...

Where do you find this stuff?

But apparently these are not "new", just newly discovered. The natural world is truly quite awesome.

Stan said...

something else to worry about.

Tim said...

I hope the AC bacteria don't give the DC bacteria a hard time!

Russ Manley said...

Gives the term "AC/DC" a whole new meaning!

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