Researchers develop renewable and biodegradable power sources utilizing bacteria

You are currently viewing Researchers develop renewable and biodegradable power sources utilizing bacteria

Promotion: A group of international researchers has recently embarked on a project called Electric Skin, with the aim of creating a flexible battery that resembles living membrane or “human skin”. This innovative project explores the potential of using bacteria and biomaterials to develop renewable and compostable energy sources.

The researchers, Nada Elkharashi, Catherine Euale, Sequoia Fischer, and Paige Perillat-Piratoine, focused on protein nanowires, also known as pili, which are hair-like structures found on the surface of bacteria. These nanowires enable bacteria to move and adhere to surfaces and have the ability to produce up to 0.5 volts of electricity.

The project drew inspiration from previous research conducted by Dr. Derek Lovley and Dr. Jun Yao from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. They created a biofilm using a specific strain of bacteria that could convert energy from moisture evaporation into electricity. This research led the team to the idea of using bacteria to develop a renewable energy source.

The desired bacteria, called Geobacter sulfurreducens, can be found in oxygen-deprived soils, salt marshes, garden ponds, and deep-sea trenches, making it abundantly available for energy production. By linking protein nanowires in the bacteria, the researchers aim to harness the humidity in the air to generate electrical charges.

The project, named Electric Skin, aims to incorporate these nanowires into biomaterials such as algae-based membranes to create a fully compostable material. Currently, the team is testing their circuits on flexible, algae-based membranes as a substitute for glass.

The researchers believe that by creating an electricity-generating material that is fully biodegradable, they can complete a seamless cycle from soil-dwelling bacteria to compost. The use of a textured membrane gives their design a living or biomimetic property, similar to the skin of a living creature. This concept aims to create a stronger connection between individuals and everyday objects and make them less likely to dispose of these objects.

In terms of applications, the team envisions that the flexible battery could be used to power light sources or charge phones. They hope that the incorporation of this “skin” into various technologies will change the way people interact with and connect to everyday objects.

This project is a collaboration between Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar and the researchers involved.

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