Working Towards Electron-Fed Biofuel-Producing Bacteria
One of the challenges shared by solar and wind power is its difficulty to transport the energy they produce to where it is wanted. The areas with the most sunlight and the most wind are not always near major population centers, and even then, the power can vary, uncontrollably throughout the day. As reported by the American Society for Microbiology, the first step to using bacteria to convert the electricity to chemical energy has been taken.
Nature is filled with bacteria that can do all kinds of things, including oxidizing iron. These bacteria feed on the electricity released by iron oxidation to grow and multiply, along with carbon dioxide from the air. What researchers have successfully done is replaced the oxidation process with an equivalent voltage, causing the bacteria to thrive on an electrode.
Potentially we could see these or similar bacteria being used to pull carbon dioxide from the air and converting it into more useful compounds, such as biofuels, using solar and wind power to provide the necessary energy. That technology is still far off though, but a little closer to reality than it had been.