Bacterial ‘wires’– the secret power to create electronic circuits

According to a recent research conducted by microbiologist Derek Lovley at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, some species of bacteria may  possess the secret to more powerful electronic circuits to work underwater through their hair-like threads. The threads are known to connect with other bacteria and also conduct electricity.

Bacteria uses pili to connect with each other.  Lovely and his team cut off some pili from Geobacter bacteria to study their chemistry. They discovered that conductivity fluctuates just as in minerals with the rise and fall of PH and temperature. Conductivity increases with the fall in temperature. The team then experimented by increasing the pili production and found that there was a boost in the overall conductivity of Geobacter biofilms.

In the August 7th advance online issue of Nature Nanotechnology, Lovely and his team reported that their findings may one day lead to cheaper, nontoxic nano-materials for biosensors and specific electronics that connect with biological systems. Lovley’s colleague Mark Tuominen says that there are endless possibilities. The small lattice type pili can increase surface area inside capacitors quite amazingly. It will allow the capacitors to store more electrical charge.

Lovely and other physicists as well as colleagues say that the networks of bacterial filaments can move charges as efficiently as synthetic organic metallic nanostructures. The networks of bacterial filaments are also known as microbial nanowires for their ability to conduct electrons. These microbial nonowires are effective over long distances, thousands of times the actual bacterium’s length.

Tuominen explains, “This discovery not only puts forward an important new principle in biology but in materials science. We can now investigate a range of new conducting nanomaterials that are living, naturally occurring, nontoxic, easier to produce and less costly than human-made. They may even allow us to use electronics in water and moist environments. It opens exciting opportunities for biological and energy applications that were not possible before.”



Facebook Iconfacebook like buttonTwitter Icontwitter follow button