A2: Microbes in the News (#2)
How electricity-eating microbes use electrons to fix carbon dioxide (Science Daily)
Find the article here.
Summary: The bacterium, Rhodopseudomonas palustris, has been identified to have the ability to metabolize electricity. It transfers electrons to fix CO2 to fuel its growth. Essentially, it enjoys feasting on rust and uses the electrons in a process called extracellular electron uptake. The research team at Washington University are using this knowledge to understand the microbe’s role in carbon cycling and has helped connect some unknown areas of basic concepts.
An understanding of how these microbes store the electrons could potentially lead to the production of alternative biofuels.
Connection: The electron tower helped to visualize which compounds are metabolized by a microbe in question. We’ve also talked about the use of microbes in our everyday lives (probiotics, waste water treatment, immunizations, etc.), and could potentially lead to an alternative energy source if researchers discover the mechanisms to harness this microbe for bioplastics or biofuel (as mentioned in the article).
Critical Analysis: This could potentially lead to a great alternative source for fuels in the future. It’s in its exploratory stages currently and much more about specific mechanisms needs to be learned before researchers are ready to turn it into biofuel.
The draw back of this type of approach poses the concern about how this application will alter the microbial world around us. Other fuels accumulate in the atmosphere so how will the accumulation of an organism affect our environment?
Question: How could the artificial abundance of this microbe affect the ecosystems around it?