Scientists have demonstrated how bacterial microbes are able to discharge small electrical currents, bringing the world one step closer to bio-batteries.
The breakthrough could allow researchers to create biological batteries that are charged by bacteria producing electrical energy. The bacteria can also be used to generate electricity out of human and animal waste.
The study could have larger and more environmentally friendly uses in the future such as entire power plants that use the electric energy produced by the bacteria. The breakthrough is a part of a joint study being carried out by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the U.S. Department of Energy.
"This is an exciting advance in our understanding of how some bacterial species move electrons from the inside to the outside of a cell," said Dr Tom Clarke of UEA's School of Biological Sciences, UPI reports.
"Identifying the precise molecular structure of the key proteins involved in this process is a crucial step towards tapping into microbes as a viable future source of electricity," he added.
Clarke admitted that bacteria will never be able to compete with the kind of energy generated by nuclear plants but might be a reliable source of energy for rural areas.