Scientists have built a nanocity for bacteria that produce electricity

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have long studied the ability of photosynthetic bacteria to convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into energy. By providing micro-organisms with suitable housing, similar to a multi-storey residential building, scientists have opened up new horizons in the field of bioenergy.

The tiny “nano-vessel” meshes create an optimal environment that not only promotes the rapid growth of bacteria, but also raises their energy-harvesting potential to new heights.

Photosynthetic bacteria, also known as cyanobacteria or blue-green algae, can be found in all bodies of water where they survive through photosynthesis.

The natural prowess of cyanobacteria at this task has already inspired the scientific community to create promising avenues of renewable energy research, from bionic fungi that generate electricity to algae-powered bioreactors that absorb carbon dioxide.

Cyanobacteria thrive in environments such as lake surfaces because they require a lot of sunlight to grow. A team from the University of Cambridge made a breakthrough by experimenting with ways to best meet the needs of blue-green algae.

An important factor the team had to consider was that in order to harvest the energy that cyanobacteria produce through photosynthesis, they need to be attached to electrodes in some way. By creating electrodes that also promote bacterial growth, scientists are effectively trying to kill two birds with one stone.

Scientists have built a nanocity for bacteria that produce electricity 2

Nanoelectrodes of the future

The team used 3D printing to produce electrodes made from metal oxide nanoparticles, which were arranged in densely packed sets of poles that looked like a tiny city with high-rise buildings from the outside.

This city was inhabited by cyanobacteria, which generated electricity with great efficiency. The useful output of the system was so great that the amount of incoming energy increased “by more than an order of magnitude.”

Cyanobacteria are universal chemical factories

Another strength of this approach is that the printing technique can be adapted to produce structures of different heights and scales, which means that the structure of the “nano-city” can be easily adjusted to the specifics of specific projects.

Thus, the study not only shows how to better capture the energy of this form of photosynthesis, but also opens up new possibilities in the field of electrode design.


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