It is understood that some bacteria can generate their own electricity, which may make them useful in batteries and fuel cells. But so far, such attempts have been inefficient and inflexible. Now, researchers at KIT have created a bio hybrid system built around hydrogel, which supports microorganisms and effectively collects energy.
The core bacteria of this system are called “exoelectrics”. This family of microbes produces electrons that pass through the outer membrane and leave the cell. If we can capture these electrons, the externally charged bacteria can basically help build living batteries, but conductive materials are needed to shunt electrons to the electrodes, but most of these materials are not suitable for bacteria to survive, and those materials that make the survival of microbial families more comfortable are not efficient conductors.
For the new study, the researchers developed a material of their own in order to make both materials work best. The first is hydrogel, which is composed of carbon nanotubes and silica nanoparticles, which can conduct electricity. These are all held together by strands of DNA. The bacteria are then added to a nutrient containing medium to maintain their vitality.
The team found that these bacteria grew well on materials and penetrated into the pores of hydrogels. Hydrogels also do well in conducting electricity. The researchers also built in a way to turn off the battery. When electricity is no longer needed, an enzyme can be added to cut the DNA strand, causing the material to collapse. The researchers say that some properties of the material can be changed by adjusting the formula, especially by changing the size and sequence of DNA strands.
Editor in charge: WV