Electrical Circuits in Nature

Nanowires

Did you ever imagine the existence of an electrical circuit in Nature? Well, recent discovery has confirmed the existence of Nanowires, that are used by colonies of bacteria to transport electrons. These Nanowires are constructed out of protein molecules that self-assemble themselves into long filaments and have been shown to conduct measurable current between two electrodes.

In order to survive, the bacteria need to lose electrons to an electron acceptor. If they cannot find an acceptor, they grow Nanowires to transport electrons to a distant acceptor. This mechanism is used by colonies of bacteria as a survival strategy, when the immediate environment is deficient in electron acceptors. The bacteria found to have this characteristic are Shewanella and Geobacter.

Scanning electron microscope imaging reveals a network of Nanowires that interconnects bacteria cells in Earth’s subsurface. This hardwired network produces measurable electric potentials and its behaviour can be characterised like that of an electrical circuit.

The mechanism helps the bacteria to communicate and share energy. This discovery is considered to be promising for development of microbial fuel cells, that could utilise the nano currents produced by bacteria, and thus provide alternate source of energy.

Understanding how micro organisms use Nanowires for efficient energy distribution and communication between themselves may provide a solution to our own energy needs.

Places to go from here:

Bacterial Nanowires
Is Earth’s sub-surface hardwired?

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ISJ

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