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Breakthrough in Electricity-Producing Microbe

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the devil-in-the-dark dept.

Power 177

University of Massachusetts researchers have made a breakthrough with "Geobacter," a microbe that produces electric current from mud and wastewater. A conservative estimate puts the energy output increase at eight times that of the original organism, potentially allowing applications far beyond that of extracting electricity from mud. "Now, planning can move forward to design microbial fuel cells that convert waste water and renewable biomass to electricity, treat a single home's waste while producing localized power (especially attractive in developing countries), power mobile electronics, vehicles and implanted medical devices, and drive bioremediation of contaminated environments."

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I, for one... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28930431)

...welcome our new shit-eating overlords?

Re:I, for one... (5, Funny)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930593)

We're talking about a microbe that can turn bullshit into electricity? I suppose this is the one way that Congress will give power back to the people....

Re:I, for one... (4, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930793)

Well, this bacterium was originally discovered feeding off the muck at the bottom of the Potomac River. Make of that what you will....

Re:I, for one... (1, Flamebait)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931085)

Well, this bacterium was originally discovered feeding off the muck at the bottom of the Potomac River. Make of that what you will....

Not surprising. After all, you won't find a more diverse, stubborn, rotting infestation of bottom-feeding scumsuckers in the United States than in DC.

Re:I, for one... (-1, Offtopic)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932055)

Congrats to the douchebag who modded this redundant. You have proven yourself incapable of discerning a comment that suggests: "there is a lot of bullshit in Washington DC that would lure bullshit-eating microbes to the Potomac" and a comment that suggests: "washington DC is full of scum-sucking politicians, so what are the chances that the microbes in DC suck scum as well?"

I hope you strangle yourself with the helmet your mother makes you wear whenever you go outside.

So why the "congratulations"? Because you're no longer the dumbest person with modpoints on slashdot. There was a person who modded my post as "Flamebait" because they've microwaved their head for long enough to think that calling a politician a "bottom-feeding scumsucker" is trying to pick fights on the internets. You read that correctly. Someone has been registered on slashdot for more than 6 months and thinks that the leadership and appointed representation of this fine country is composed of sterling men who have nothing but the populace's best interests at heart -- instead of their own.

But sadly, this post does nothing toward rectifying such a situation, so I'm sorry to everyone else that I'm wasting the time and bandwidth to tell these two idiots that they are idiots.

Re:I, for one... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28931043)

We're talking about a microbe that can turn bullshit into electricity?

Yep. Think about it: This site alone gives as much back as it takes. Sites like Infowars and Freep suddenly become self-sustaining generators. Fox News reduces its carbon footprint to near-zero levels!

Re:I, for one... (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931271)

Infowars:

No war for shit!

Fox News:

More news on Shitholistan's WMD program!

There are not enough mod points in the world (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931445)

Especially since I have none. Alas, good job!

Re:I, for one... (1)

Croakus (663556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932123)

Best ... comment ... ever ....

Re:I, for one... (4, Interesting)

JordanL (886154) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931113)

You bring up a good point. This technology simply liberates the stored energy in feces, which is itself processed from the stored energy in plants.

I'm always amazed at how little variation there really is in energy production. Really there are only two sources of energy here on earth:

-Solar
-Nuclear

Even geothermal is powered by the heat of the earth's core, which is itself powered by radioactivity. (I guess one could argue that the radioactive elements were formed in a star, making them solar as well, but that's a bit too far for me.)

Re:I, for one... (1)

notaspy (457709) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931303)

Solar = Nuclear

"Really there are only two sources of energy here on earth:

-Solar
-Nuclear

Even geothermal is powered by the heat of the earth's core, which is itself powered by radioactivity. (I guess one could argue that the radioactive elements were formed in a star, making them solar as well, but that's a bit too far for me.)"

Re:I, for one... (1)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932129)

Solar = Nuclear

Technically yes, but not in the context here.

Earth absorbs a crapton of energy from solar, which is used by plants to power conversions of carbon and other nutrients. You can release that energy, which was original derived from the sun. The easiest example is to burn wood... the tree used carbon matter and CO2, and when you burn it the energy is released, it is returned for another tree to use. To use it requires more energy.

As far as nuclear, I guess he's talking about the ability to produce energy from nuclear materials found on earth. Unlike coal or oil or wood, nuclear materials didn't get their energy coming directly from the sun's rays.... although they probably did come from an exploding sun at some point.

Re:I, for one... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931883)

Even geothermal is powered by the heat of the earth's core, which is itself powered by radioactivity.

Well, and by the original formation of the earth (essentially gravitational potential energy of the dust and rocks that accreted and formed earth, plus later impacts, turned into heat).

Not that adding "Formation of the solar system" as another source of energy really adds much to the mix! It is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Re:I, for one... (2, Interesting)

TTURabble (1164837) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932079)

Well if you broke it down completely, energy is never created or destroyed, it only changes states. So all the energy that will ever exist was created at the beginning of the universe and is simply stored in different states.

And all energy is atomic energy, the difference comes in how we decide to extract that energy.

Re:I, for one... (1)

SupremoMan (912191) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932001)

So what happens if it takes liking to the feces still in your colon?

Re:I, for one... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931735)

Won't they be more like underlings?

I know: When I have such a thing near my house, I will go outside, yell "Eat shit, you stinkin' microbes!", bang a stick on the container, watch the neighbor kids run away in terror. ^^

BREAKTHROUGH IN ELECTRICITY PRODUCING ASSHOLE (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28930433)

MORE DETAILS AT GOATSE [goatse.fr]

mr. fusion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28930445)

mr. fusion?

Cool (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28930449)

If it treats shit, then we finally have a use for Obama

Some of my favorites... (4, Funny)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930473)

- This story stinks!
- The OP is full of shit!
- I get shitty service on my phone now!

I'll show myself out.

Re:Some of my favorites... (4, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930623)

Bah.

See, I knew we'd find a use for dark matter!

This is no joke! (2, Interesting)

yog (19073) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931487)

If this microbe escaped from the lab, we'd all be in trouble. Can you imagine the headlines we'd start to see all over the world?

- Man electrocuted on toilet

- Tip for rainy weather: wear well-insulated boots when walking in mud

- Tomato fields plagued by ball lightning after manure fertilization

- In the 3rd world, muddy unpaved roads power electric scooters

The idea of dipping my iPhone into the nearest bucket of shit sickens me, and yet this may become the favored means of charging one's phone in a hurry.

I suppose a welcome next step will be a second microbe that neutralizes the stench.

Re:This is no joke! (3, Informative)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931663)

I really hope you're kidding (I can't tell).

While I'm not an expert on the technology, I think I can pretty safely say that everything you said is a load of electrified crap.

a microbe that produces electric current from mud? (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930493)

a microbe that produces electric current from mud? This will increase the long dormant demand for mud pies! Need to re-charge your ipod? Mudpie! Scared that taser is going to kill the suspect? Throw a mud-pie! Now with electro-conductive pie places!

Re:a microbe that produces electric current from m (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931247)

"A planet where apes evolved from men?? Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty microbe!"

Fantastic (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930517)

I must tour a rural village powered by electric mud. I'll just hop in my flying car and be right over.

Do I even need to go into What Could Possibly Go Wrong mode when discussing the prospects of using electricity-generating bacteria to power medical devices implanted in your body?

Re:Fantastic (4, Insightful)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930847)

As someone who helps to design and manufacture medical devices, I have no doubt that they could be made safely. That said, I doubt I'd be first in line to get one. I think even our current battery technology is sufficient for most implants. Of course, that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to improve.

If the technology works out, I do look forward to a home septic system that produces power for me AND saves me from tearing up my yard. (Wishful thinking, yes, but cool nonetheless.)

Anyway, regardless of whether this technology becomes a commercial success, this kind of stuff could/will be very useful down the road. Great work.

Re:Fantastic (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931213)

I have no doubt that they could be made safely. That said, I doubt I'd be first in line to get one.

I woudn't be the first in line to get any new medical devoce, unless it was the only thing that would keep me alive or being maimed. I thought long and hard before I got my Crystalens implant, as it was only approved in 2003 and I had it implanted in 2006. I still worry somewhat that some day its struts might break.

Re:Fantastic (1)

Phat_Tony (661117) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932215)

"implanted medical devices"

I don't get it. Who wants to inject mud into their veins?

Re:Fantastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28931175)

As well as what can go right. Captain Lightning anyone?

Finally, A Reason For Another (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28930523)

Hurricane Katrina [youtube.com]

Strike that, reverse it? (1)

Gutierrez (1599359) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930533)

When I'm done with you, you're gonna' eat thunder and crap lightning!

In other news (5, Funny)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930537)

Obama calls for "regime change" in the Republic of Elbonia.

Protestor sign of the future: (3, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931927)

"No blood for poop!"

This joke is 100% recycled via humor-digesting bacteria.

And in East Elbonia (3, Funny)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930557)

And in East Elbonia, they are planning on dominating the world's energy market in 20 years....

Re:And in East Elbonia (0, Redundant)

DeusExMach (1319255) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931235)

Ah, but in WEST Elbonia, the energy market dominates YOU!

. . . and I've been flushing away all that . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930627)

. . . um, . . . renewable energy resource all these years . . .

this reminds me (4, Funny)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930651)

Maybe it's time to evaluate 2 girls 1 cup for educational reasons...

Then again maybe not

Love that dirty water... (1)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930677)

Boston you're my home.

Surge protection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28930683)

Will this technology cause the merger of Pepto and APC?

Re:Surge protection (1)

Stupiduser.com (555304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931331)

The lines around Taco Bell are gonna be huge!

Needs a new power unit (4, Funny)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930709)

How should we name the unit to represent Joules Per Flush? I vote for the Crapper.

Re:Needs a new power unit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28931251)

How should we name the unit to represent Joules Per Flush? I vote for the Crapper.

Calling the unit a "Fecal" sounds more like a unit of measure.

Let's get serious (2, Funny)

DontLickJesus (1141027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930723)

This is wonderful news. Ideas like these are the kind of things that turn energy into a free for all. Remember the water cycle? Any American was taught this process by at least middle school. IMHO creating an "Energy Cycle" is our ultimate goal here. Who knew a septic tank would end up back in style? Hook up a few power cables and whammo! Instant power station. Yes, I'm full of shit. I have the power.

Won't happen... (0, Troll)

Poingggg (103097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930891)

Sorry guys, dream on. As soon as Big Oil cs gets its sticky little hands on it, it'll be over for as long as there is still one cent of profit to get out of oil. Free energy will stay a dream as long as there is are powerful firms who can force you to buy it from them and who can buy everything that threatens their profits (including politicians).
This is not meant as flamebait or trolling, I'm just afraid this is the sad truth.

 

Re:Won't happen... (1)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931031)

Yes, because no one could ever make any money selling a free-energy machine...

Re:Won't happen... (1)

Poingggg (103097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931347)

Of course free-energy machines would sell, bigtime even! But *what i am afraid will happen* (that is NOT the same as 'I tell you this will happen!') is that other, bigger businesses which would loss energy sales and thus profit, will buy (things like) this and hold it back to protect their interests. Try to win from $Big_Business as a small startup company!
I HOPE I am too pessimistic here, I really, really want things like this to succeed, but if the vested interests want to stop it, they will try with all their might.
(Just like, imagine, there would be a free Operating System that might form a threat to a Big Software Company).

Re:Won't happen... (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931503)

The thing is, the smarter oil companies are rebranding/re-aligning themeselves as energy companies. If they see practical profit in it, which is necessary for any reasonable power system, theyll grab it and develop. Id be more worried about them patenting things and making it overpriced.

Re:Won't happen... (1)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931541)

Of course free-energy machines would sell, bigtime even! But *what i am afraid will happen* (that is NOT the same as 'I tell you this will happen!') is that other, bigger businesses which would loss energy sales and thus profit, will buy (things like) this and hold it back to protect their interests.

That's what I'm saying. If Exxon (the biggest of the big) came up with, or bought the rights to, a free-energy machine, do you really think they would just hold on to it? Or, would they try to sell the shit out of it, and crush their competitors in the process?

I just don't see how holding it back would make any sense at all, provided Exxon gives it even a moment's thought.

Re:Won't happen... (1)

Poingggg (103097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932197)

They could hold it back as long as they have another cash-cow to milk empty first. But maybe you are right and they would become really big and filthy rich selling the machines. On the other hand, they could also use the machines themselves (no-one else could, they have the rights) to make energy for free and sell it to you and me for the prices we pay now and stay in business forever.
It could go in all directions, but in the end, we will pay for our free energy. Upside is, of course, that this way of generating it is a lot more environment-friendly. And that IS nice, no matter who does it. :-)

Re:Won't happen... (1)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932431)

On the other hand, they could also use the machines themselves (no-one else could, they have the rights) to make energy for free and sell it to you and me for the prices we pay now and stay in business forever.

Not forever, just until their patent runs out. Or, if unpatented, until rediscovered by someone else (which would probably be a shorter time than a patent's length).

Re:Won't happen... (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932345)

Dude, because they're totally like EVIL. Didn't you watch Captain Planet? They're total goal is to destroy the earth because they are BAD.

Re:Won't happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28931057)

9/11 Truther, Tin foil hat wearing, mother's basement dwelling retard.

Re:Won't happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28931063)

What if BP gets it first its one of the oil companies who acctually tried to go in to alt sources and had to fall back to hydrocarbons when it didnt work. this is the kind of thing that seems like it would be right up their alley

Re:Won't happen... (1)

Poingggg (103097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931427)

Well, if BP (or any other firm) would pick this up and make it successfull, I will be the first to celebrate!
As I said in a previous answer in this thread, I really hope it succeeds. I'm just afraid the vested interests will (want to) make it fail.

And I said it in my original posting and will say it again: I don't mean to troll or flamebait, it's just me being (hopefully too) pessimistic.

Not So Fast (-1)

modrzej (1450687) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930743)

The information that it'll eventually lead to harnessing energy from mud isn't to be unconditionally believed. First of all, mud isn't habitat for this bacteria (riverbed is). Once in mud, they'll be forced to struggle for life competing with a myriad of other species. Secondly, they're grown in laboratory (the article mentions a kind of induced natural selection being exercised) so they'll be compromised when placed in real-world environment.

Yes, so fast. (5, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931021)

The Geobacter biofilm's "fortuitous" electron-transferring skill, the product of natural selection, suggested a pathway to Lovley - a way he might use selective pressure to increase its capacity to produce power. He and colleagues grew Geobacter as usual on a graphite electrode, providing acetate as food and allowing a colony to form the biologically active slime, or biofilm where electron transfer takes place across the nanowires. But for this new experiment they added a tiny, 400-millivolt "pushback" current in the electrode that forced Geobacter to press harder to get rid of its electrons.

The result of providing a more challenging environment, within five short months, Lovley notes, was evolution of a beefed-up microorganism that can press at least eight times more electric current across the electrode than the original strain. âoeI'm really happy with this outcome," the microbiologist notes. "It's exceptionally fast feedback to us and a very satisfying result." He adds, "I'm still a little amazed that they make electricity, but I'm happy to be exploring how to harness that ability. I'm sure there'll be applications developed in the future that we canâ(TM)t even envision right now."

That's halfway down in the article.

You should try reading things before you try to debunk them. The environment will be created to get the most electricity out of the little microbes, and probably sealed off and not thrown in the dirt. I imagine there may even be filters in place where the waste comes into make sure that any natural predators are weakened or killed to continue allowing the organisms to thrive.

And they have been studying this organism since 1987, and examining it for electrical production since 2002. I'm glad you're skeptical, but not glad that you're commenting on something you didn't even bother to read.

Re:Yes, so fast. (1)

modrzej (1450687) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931889)

That's halfway down in the article

WHAT is halfway down in the article? I don't get it. You've quoted half of the article and what? What should I focus on?

I imagine there may even be filters in place where the waste comes into make sure that any natural predators are weakened or killed to continue allowing the organisms to thrive.

Filtering wastewater is a bit tricky because if you're pushing it through a microporous membrane to get rid of organisms bigger than a diameter of a pore, it requires exercising an extra pressure, so it needs energy. Sterilization through UV light, the same thing. One can imagine getting rid of competing organisms by means of injecting a chemical compound for which our bacteria is resistant, but for others it's toxic. Don't get me wrong, I don't debunk the whole idea, just try to point out they're in the middle (well, maybe further because it's a real breakthrough) of preparing something which is of efficient use in real world.

Re:Not So Fast (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931041)

I think mud is a euphemism for many of us. The riverbed, in this case, might be the bottom of sewage treatment plants. As for other bacteria, we could heat the "mud" up for a while to largely sterilize it to reduce that competition.

But it seems like this would (if it could operate in munch dryer situations) be an ideal additive to compost heaps to get a little more out of them...

Re:Not So Fast (2, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931559)

I'm wondering what would happen to compost heaps after some time with this bacteria. Will they be still useful for growing plants with them, or will they become "de-energized"?

Re:Not So Fast (2, Interesting)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932105)

Ooooh. Interesting question! It binds iron and other metals, so that might make them more digestible, or less. Truely unclear.

Re:Not So Fast (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931711)

Your entire post is based on one very stupid assumption: That their plan is to just dump the bacteria in local mud and have it generate electricity. Of course, that's absurd. What they'll do is place the bacteria in a controlled environment, aka a fuel cell, and then pass the mud/waste water/etc through the fuel cell to produce electricity.

But, hey, don't let common sense stop you from coming to silly conclusions.

Re:Not So Fast (1)

modrzej (1450687) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932177)

(...) That their plan is to just dump the bacteria in local mud and have it generate electricity.

What I tried to point out is that further consideration is needed on whether the environment needs to prepared/sterilized, i.e. made noncompetitive in ecological sense for the bacteria to do their job. It's not naive, it's biotechnology 101.

(...) pass the mud/waste water/etc through the fuel cell to produce electricity.

As it comes to wastewater, it may be good idea, technology for doing that already exists. Mud is dense so mass transport would be extremely energy consuming.

Why devlopping countries? (2, Insightful)

Mishotaki (957104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930749)

We don't have enough shit over here? we don't need electricity over here?

Why can't we use that technology to make the water treatment plants produce electricity while they also treat our wastes?Â

Re:Why devlopping countries? (1)

jerep (794296) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930901)

over here people are full of shit, maybe we can make them useful, there are years and years worth of energy walking down the streets every day, running corporations and marketing.

I wouldnt trust these microbes with our water, i dont want to get zapped if they end up in my tap water!

Re:Why devlopping countries? (1)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930939)

Seems valid enough, though I wonder if the sheer amount of waste at a large plant would make this setup hard to manage. It might simply make more sense to have decentralized handling of waste, akin to small communities where each house has its own septic system.

localized power only interesting in the 3rd world? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28930767)

> while producing localized power (especially attractive in developing countries)

Why is that?

All those people putting PV panels on their roof in developed countries must have it wrong then.

Then again, (as an ex-Californian) California is doing a good job of turning itself into a third world country.

If it could purify (2, Interesting)

Coldeagle (624205) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930779)

I'm curious if they might be able to combine this with another microbe or filtering system that would enable it to purify the water too. If they could, you could get an almost closed water system thus solving a lot of the water issues across the US. Or if it could desalinate water while producing power :)

Re:If it could purify (2, Interesting)

rezalas (1227518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930933)

A good combo for space shuttles and stations.

Soooo.... Mr Fusion is finally here... (1)

franiu (1343655) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930795)

...when do we finally get a working weather service??

Re:Soooo.... Mr Fusion is finally here... (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930889)

When the weather is no longer chaotic?

Re:Soooo.... Mr Fusion is finally here... (1)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932153)

I'm just surprised no one has started a chain of Cafe '80s restaurants yet.

IMPOSSIBLE! BLASPEHMOUS! (1, Funny)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930833)

This isn't a new bacteria! This creature was invented by God and was on the Ark with Noah six thousand years ago!

Re:IMPOSSIBLE! BLASPEHMOUS! (1, Funny)

DeusExMach (1319255) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931253)

Impossible, as the Earth is only 6000 years old.

Re:IMPOSSIBLE! BLASPEHMOUS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28931699)

Yeah, it was living in Noah's fishtank.

Re:IMPOSSIBLE! BLASPEHMOUS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28931911)

No, no, no.

Give that another spin!

Like...

Hana Yi et al. (2009) show strong correlation between intelligent designers with an observed minimal IQ of 130 and the creation of new species, furthering support for our claims. Adittional research may show wether this is a lower bound for the intelligence of an omniscient being capable to create life, the universe and everything.

Great.. (3, Funny)

jerep (794296) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930849)

soon we'll be purchasing dirt and instead of oil, declaring war against third world countries to steal their wastes, and those environmentalists are gonna whine about the smell.

Re:Great.. (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931307)

why go to war, if you can power your car by shitting in the gas tank? all you need is a couple of kids, and you'll never run out of fuel.

New energy source!?! (2, Funny)

lowfence (1611187) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930929)

So brown is the new green?

Bring on the Matrix (1)

saikou (211301) | more than 5 years ago | (#28930983)

Except machines will be using humans for ... well... you know which way to make electricity.

In-pod plumbing... it's gonna be big!

Details from the published paper (2, Informative)

Grond (15515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931049)

First, a citation to the published paper: Hana Yi, et al., Selection of a variant of Geobacter sulfurreducens with enhanced capacity for current production in microbial fuel cells, Biosensors and Bioelectronics, Volume 24, Issue 12, 15 August 2009, Pages 3498-3503.

The extrapolated current density was 7.4 ± 0.1 A/m2. The individual fuel cells produced 14mA, which was sustained for 24 months.

Re:Details from the published paper (4, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931209)

Here's the abstract from the paper (with some line breaks inserted for readability):

Geobacter sulfurreducens produces current densities in microbial fuel cells that are among the highest known for pure cultures. The possibility of adapting this organism to produce even higher current densities was evaluated. A system in which a graphite anode was poised at 400 mV (versus Ag/AgCl) was inoculated with the wild-type strain of G. sulfurreducens, strain DL-1. An isolate, designated strain KN400, was recovered from the biofilm after 5 months of growth on the electrode. KN400 was much more effective in current production than strain DL-1. This was apparent with anodes poised at 400 mV, as well as in systems run in true fuel cell mode. KN400 had current (7.6 A/m2) and power (3.9 W/m2) densities that respectively were substantially higher than those of DL1 (1.4 A/m2 and 0.5 W/m2).

On a per cell basis KN400 was more effective in current production than DL1, requiring thinner biofilms to make equivalent current. The enhanced capacity for current production in KN400 was associated with a greater abundance of electrically conductive microbial nanowires than DL1 and lower internal resistance (0.015 versus 0.130 /m2) and mass transfer limitation in KN400 fuel cells. KN400 produced flagella, whereas DL1 does not. Surprisingly, KN400 had much less outer-surface c-type cytochromes than DL1. KN400 also had a greater propensity to form biofilms on glass or graphite than DL1, even when growing with the soluble electron acceptor, fumarate.

These results demonstrate that it is possible to enhance the ability of microorganisms to electrochemically interact with electrodes with the appropriate selective pressure and that improved current production is associated with clear differences in the properties of the outer surface of the cell that may provide insights into the mechanisms for microbe-electrode interactions.

Copper Top (1)

GottliebPins (1113707) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931059)

So now we can starting using the human body to produce electricity?

downside being (3, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931077)

1. you get a tingly feeling every time you sit on the toilet, and its not from your feet falling asleep

2. if your septic tank overflows you're in danger of electrocuting the family dog

3. you also have to be careful where you piss, or you'll know what its like to urinate on the third rail of light rail system

How long until (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28931109)

the bacteria evolve back to the state where they did not produce as much electricity, and uses the extra energy to reproduce?

Talk about the future.. (2, Interesting)

Carpeaux (1569673) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931127)

Every now and then we read about some new energy producing mean, it just makes me wonder... Can anyone even begin to imagine what would a society based on these technologies look like? They are very diverse and seem to cover ever encreasing aspects of our lives. Each one could take care of a bit of our smaller needs and nuclear energy could be the only massive one, providing for larger needs in a world with ever more energy-efficient technologies. What if through technology we can reach a society with no more big energy concerns, just by sort of cutting the sharp edges of our wastes? Anyone knows some hard science fiction dealing with this kind of society?

Re:Talk about the future.. (1)

DeusExMach (1319255) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931365)

I'd say Asimov's Foundation series, but that has more to do with sociopolitical influences on a massive scale and scope than dealing with basic terrestrial energy crises.

Re:Talk about the future.. (1)

Delwin (599872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931725)

Star Trek

Obligatory... (3, Funny)

theJML (911853) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931217)

..."Dennis! There's some Lovely Filth down here!"...

Re:Obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28932165)

..."Dennis! There's some Lovely Filth down here!"...

I fart in your general direction (and reclaim my own foul gasses for later reprocessing).

More efficient adaptation, but... (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931293)

... what's to stop the microbes from evolving/adapting BACK to the lower output when they're placed in a rich environment (fuel cell, whatever) again? Stupid researchers... they forget that mutation doesn't only occur when they want it to occur and not only in the fashion they desire.

Re:More efficient adaptation, but... (4, Insightful)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931527)

... what's to stop the microbes from evolving/adapting BACK to the lower output when they're placed in a rich environment (fuel cell, whatever) again? Stupid researchers... they forget that mutation doesn't only occur when they want it to occur and not only in the fashion they desire.

[sarcasm]You're right. All this research is useless. We should just give up.[/sarcasm]

I feel like I say this constantly, but I just can't help myself here...

Just because you don't see a benefit doesn't mean there isn't one. Just because the technology doesn't instantly save humanity from all of its mistakes doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. Even research that never directly leads to a useful commercial application is helpful. Tons of advances have come sideways out of unrelated research. (Also, knowledge for the sake of knowledge is a choice many scientists make and there's nothing wrong with it.)

If you can't see past your own life, please get away from mine.

Re:More efficient adaptation, but... (2, Interesting)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932035)

The same thing that prevents house dogs from evolving back to wolves, and farm turkeys from evolving smaller breasts.

Re:More efficient adaptation, but... (1)

mtemmerm (1604279) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932185)

When placing this microbe in a real world system such as a fuel cell connected to a sceptic tank, it seems logical that part of this system should include the same kind of stimulus (in this case the 400 milivolt the article speaks of) than in the lab tests, in order to keep the microbe 'stimulated' to produce a higher electrical output. Otoh, I don't know much on the subject and could be full of you-know-what. It just sounds logical to include this type of regressive evolution inhibitor. Also, these people are a lot smarter than me and have probably given this some thought :).

New word of encourgement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28931523)

Maybe before an athlete goes out to compete, his supporters can say "Eat Shit!" (meaning: have a lot of energy!)

For once, the supporter and detractors can say the same thing!

The weekly Green Energy Hype (2, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931533)

We get at least one of these stories a week on /. A story about some wonderful new potential source of "Free" Green Energy. Of course none are anywhere near production and nobody sane even talks about them producing energy at costs per KWK anywhere near current technology. But as long as new miracle tech can be waved in front of folks the need to face up to our current reality can be postponed by wishful thinking.

Reality:

1. No "Alternate" Energy source is believed to be capable of producing a sizable fraction of our current energy needs at competitive rates in the next twenty years. Wind and solar are only popular in areas with massive government subsidy because they aren't cost effective on their own. And any attempt to scale either to carry large percentages of the grid will only make those issues clear and reveal more problems. Hydrogen is itself 'clean' but none of the sources are easy to tap in a clean way with one politically unacceptable (Nuke power) exception. Biofuels create egoboo for greens in small quantities but lead to famine when scaled up.

2. To obtain oil we are sending a large share of our wealth to people who are using it to destroy our civilization. This is a very bad idea.

3. The greens might have a point with the whole AGW thing. And even if their math and models are all wet it is likely we are having SOME effect somewhere with all this drilling, extracting and burning of fossil fuels.

4. Fusion has been thirty years off for the last forty years.

We really need to have a hard look at those realities, stop dreaming of a painless solution and start looking at options that might actually be able to help in the next twenty years.

Re:The weekly Green Energy Hype (4, Insightful)

PeterChenoweth (603694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932031)

I agree.

But then again, had /. existed in the 1930's, we would likely have been commenting on the crazy stories about 'Atomic' power being possible. Almost certainly, there would be comments that it's simply a fantasy that won't work. A work of fiction. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was just a book. Just as we'd now maybe say, "Hey, didn't they do that in the Matrix|Star Wars|Star Trek?"

Within 10 years of that fictional /. article, we had figured out how to make an atomic bomb, and 10 years after that the USS Nautilus was built - the first nuclear powered ship. And just a couple of years later, the first public-power-generating nuclear plants came online. If you take all of that, and wrote a story published in the early 30's claiming that this would happen in the next 20-25 years, it would have been as fantastic as anything we can dream up here regarding electricity-producing algae or flying cars or living on the moon.

I totally agree that there's probably no way we're going to get any significant amount of our energy needs from electricity-producing microbes. Just as we probably won't from solar, wind, or waves alone. But it's just another piece of the puzzle for the future. Oil & coal aren't going away anytime soon, but it is important that we explore other options to push the frontier of what is possible. You never know, there's always a chance that this will be "the next big thing". It's worth at least reading about.

Hate to say it, but... (0, Offtopic)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28931955)

The result of providing a more challenging environment, within five short months, Lovley notes, was evolution of a beefed-up microorganism

Evolution..., well, in this case, we could be a partly right if we speak of intelligent design.

Next thing you know... (1)

rlwhite (219604) | more than 5 years ago | (#28932049)

We'll be reduced to batteries for our robot overlords.

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