A team of scientists and science students discovered a new bacteria in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. After hiking seven miles into the park, they set up electrodes in the hot springs at Heart Lake Geyser Basin area in order to capture small bacteria with a unique property: they can eat and breathe electricity.
“This was the first time such bacteria were collected in situ in an extreme environment like an alkaline hot spring,” said scientist Abdelrhman Mohamed, adding that temperatures in the springs ranged from about 110 to nearly 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
As a means of fighting environmental pollution and creating more sustainable energy sources, such bacteria can “eat” pollution by converting toxic pollutants into less harmful substances and generating electricity in the process.
“As these bacteria pass their electrons into metals or other solid surfaces, they can produce a stream of electricity that can be used for low-power applications,” said Haluk Beyenal, a distinguished university professor of chemical engineering and bioengineering who helped to supervise the research.
Most living organisms – including humans – use electrons, which are tiny negatively-charged particles, in a complex chain of chemical reactions to power their bodies. Every organism needs a source of electrons and a place to dump the electrons to live. While we humans get our electrons from sugars in the food we eat and pass them into the oxygen we breathe through our lungs, several types of bacteria dump their electrons to outside metals or minerals, using protruding hair-like wires.
If you wanna geek out on bacteria, here’s a great video below.