Engineering Healthier Bacterial WiresCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: March 15, 2013 06:42AM
For numerous reasons researcher have been attempting to adapt strains of bacteria for electronics. Many species of bacteria already use electrons for one purpose or another, but normally their membrane regulates the charge balance of a bacterium and prevents it from interfacing with our technology. Ways to work around the membrane have been developed with some success, and now researchers at Berkeley Lab have discovered how to significantly improve upon that success.
Previous research has found that the presence of a specific protein can make a bacterium more likely to carry a current, but often came at the cost of cell-health. This is a probably because we do not want the living wires to die on us, so the researchers were looking for ways to optimize the method for the bacteria. Ultimately what they found was that decreasing the amount of the protein would increase the performance of the bacteria without compromising its health. As the bacteria already have the ability to work with electrical currents, the cells' healthy metabolism is able to interact directly with electronics, with less of the protein.
Potentially electronic bacteria could be used to produce fuels, act as biological reporters, and operate other bioelectronics systems. Really, only time will tell what the living wires will be able to do.
Source: Berkeley Lab