Microbes in the News

Article Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffkart/2019/01/25/new-technique-could-put-electricity-producing-bacteria-to-work/#6b6b903295b4\

Title: New technique could put electricity-producing bacteria to work

Date: January 25, 2019

Source: Forbes

Author: Jeff Kart

Summary: This article explores research conducted on microbes that can produce electricity. Scientists are hoping to harness the power of these organisms and apply it to tasks such as purifying sewage water. Using dielectrophoresis, the microbes can be categorized in respect to their electrochemical activity so that researchers can select ones that will be most efficient in completing the designated function.

Connections: In class we discussed various characteristics that microbes possess to effectively live in their environment. One of these methods was using electron acceptors other than oxygen, which is especially beneficial in anoxic conditions where oxygen is not readily available. During lecture, we learned about Geobacter, a microbe that pumps its electrons to metals, specifically iron. Researchers in the article mention Geobacter, reporting that it is found in anaerobic conditions and is “the first reported and the most effective electricity producer’. In class we also explored a few applications of electricity-producing microbes,N such as powering batteries in deep sea studies.

Critical Analysis: Although we briefly covered electrogenic microbes in class, I was interested further in their applications. This article provided some compelling supplementary information to what we previously covered in lecture. For me, the most intriguing parts of the reading were the technique they used to assess electrochemical activity as well as potential uses for electrogenic microbes. Although harnessing the power of these bacteria might be a large feat, it seems worthwhile to pursue. Considering that the article seemed consistent with basic knowledge of the chemistry pertaining to electrons and the information taught in lecture, I would argue that it was scientifically sound and would be a reasonable way to convey science to the public. Furthermore, I appreciated that the author asserted that microbes do not have solely negative implications, despite public perception. However, I think it would have been beneficial if the author went into more detail on how this research could be applied to the examples he gave, such as purifying sewage water.

Question: Does the MIT technique used to categorize bacteria by electrochemical activity have other potential uses in terms of microbial studies? Furthermore, could microbes have different applications based on their varying electrochemical activity levels?

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