Exoelectrogenic bacteria

The idea of a biobattery is pretty revolutionary; being able to power devices by harnessing the movement or secretions of small organisms like bacteria would allow for greater self-sufficiency in power generation, as well as reduce emissions, and any number of other benefits gained from going to a more sustainable and “natural” form of power generations. While a far off reality, electrogenic bacteria used by Christof Niemeyer and his colleagues at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany seems to successfully capture and transmit electrons that could be harnessed for use inside of their newly invented hydrogel battery, composed of carbon nanotubes and silica nanoparticles modelled after the DNA strands from the electrogenic bacteria in question. In a way, the gel acts as a kind of “scaffold” that electrons could “climb” down on. In tests, the electrogenic bacteria were able to attach to and produce electrons within the hydrogel, with the help of an infusion of a nutrient-rich culture medium. Niemeyer and his team could also infuse an enzyme to snip the DNA scaffolding in the hydrogel that stopped electron movement; in essence, they could turn the electricity off. This research is still in its early stages, with the paper on this topic only having been published in 2020, and it is likely that the reality of a commercial bio-battery is still far-off, but this is certainly an interesting development within the field.

Hu, Yong, David Rehnlund, Edina Klein, Johannes Gescher, Christof M. Niemeyer. “Cultivation of Exoelectrogenic Bacteria in Conductive DNA Nanocomposite Hydrogels Yields a Programmable Biohybrid Materials System.


Artificial Life, Ecological Modelling, Ecological Monitoring