Scientists over the world have for long tinkered with the idea of generating clean electricity with the help of bacteria, which the world knows can transfer electricity into metals and minerals. Taking forward the research, a team of scientists at the University of East Anglia has found that marine bacteria called Shewanella Oneidensis, have proteins that can produce an electric current by simply touching the mineral surface.
The study shows that it is possible for bacteria to lie directly on a surface of a metal or mineral and transfer electricity through their cell membranes. This also means that it would now be possible to attach bacteria directly to the electrodes, bringing the possibility of creating efficient microbial fuel cells or bio-batteries. To prove their findings, the team created a synthetic version of this bacterium using the proteins that were claimed to act as shuttle for electrons. They inserted this protein into a small capsule of lipid membrane to make up a bacterial membrane.
Then they tested how well electrons traveled between an electron donor on the inside and an iron bearing mineral on the outside. The research showed that these proteins can directly touch the mineral surface and produce an electric current, which means that the bacteria can directly lie on the surface of a mineral or metal to conduct electricity through their membranes. These bacteria show great potential as microbial fuel cells where electricity can be produced from the breakdown of domestic or agricultural waste products.