Scientists and researchers have known for some time that bacteria has the potential to generate energy in salt water, but were never really able to figure out quite how it works. Now research out of the Aarhaus University in Denmark is making important strides towards understanding that mechanism and may soon be able to create a natural biobattery from bacteria thriving in salt water. When they fully understand the mechanism, this natural battery could be used to provide clean power for monitoring buoys out in the ocean.
Lars Peter Nielsen at Aarhus University in Denmark published his research in Nature last week, offering a better understanding of the mechanism for how bacteria colonies in seawater are connected. Basically, electrons are produced in bacteria colonies when organic matter and hydrogen sulphide in the sediment are transported to the surface where they react with oxygen. The tests performed on the bacteria indicate that there is a much more minute connection between the layers of bacteria than just a simple molecular diffusion or conventional chemical reactions.
The bacteria at the surface consumes the oxygen while the bacteria at the bottom consumes sediment, and for all of this to work, a nanowire network connects certain bacteria together. To harness this energy, a large network of graphite electrodes could be imbedded on the seabed to collect the small currents emitted from the bacteria. No word yet on how much power this could actually create, but it could eventually be used to power monitoring buoys – an exciting possibility that could lead to even more related breakthroughs.