A Tiny Organism Has Huge Abilities: Generates Electricity And Cleanses Wastewater

Admin | Published 2017-02-15 03:05
Researchers had groundbreaking discovery about a particular bacteria bearing astounding abilities. Shewanella oneidensis, according to scientists, isn't your ordinary bacteria. Aside from its aptitude to generate electricity, new research found that it may also offer a means to decontaminate wastewater.

Crystals of the iron-containing molecule, DSFO+, created by UCSB’s Bazan Research Group (c) Zachary Rengert

S. oneidensis is an organism that can thrive with or without oxygen. By gobbling up heavy metals such as iron and mercury, it can harness power and then convert it to electricity. According to researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, who conducted the study, when the bacteria metabolizes heavy metals in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment, the bacteria uses current-conducting proteins to generate energy. In a paper published in the journal Chem, the experts detailed how they enabled the bacteria to produce more energy than the usual. Bioengineers from the Bazan Research Group created a molecule called DSFO+. This molecule has similar structure with the bacteria’s proteins. When DSFO+ was consumed by S. oneidensis, it produced more energy.

Shewanella oneidensis (c) wikimedia

“We aided the metabolism of the bacteria,” Nathan Kirchhofer, a former UCSB materials graduate student and co-lead author, said in a press release. “I think very few people have approached this from a chemical modification type of approach. We actually just took bacteria as they were and added an external agent that helps with their native process. To the best of our knowledge, it is the first time this has been demonstrated.” The researchers chemically modified the organisms, so they can expand the study with the bacteria. Also because DSFO+ may be used in similar studies with other organisms. “We see DSFO+ being used to improve wastewater treatment by allowing the bacteria already used to treat the water to produce electricity, to enable other bacteria to create biofuels by putting electricity into bacterial strains and getting high-value chemicals out, and to use DSFO+ as a molecular probe to better understand the metabolism of bacteria in certain situations,” co-lead author Zach Rengert told Digital Trends. Source: ucsb.edu
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