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Feb 22, 2012
Bugs from space offer new source of power
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Bacillus stratosphericus -- a microbe commonly found in high concentrations in the stratosphere orbiting the earth -- is a key component of a new ‘super’ biofilm that has been engineered by a team of scientists from Newcastle University. Isolating 75 different species of bacteria, the team tested the power-generation of each one using a Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC), which use bacteria to convert organic compounds directly into electricity by a process known as bio-catalytic oxidation. By selecting the best species of bacteria, a kind of microbial mixture, they were able to create an artificial biofilm, doubling the electrical output of the MFC from 105 Watts per cubic metre to 200 Watts per cubic metre. A biofilm -- or ‘slime’ -- coats the carbon electrodes of the MFC and as the bacteria feed, they produce electrons which pass into the electrodes and generate electricity. While still relatively low, this would be enough power to run an electric light and could provide a much needed power source in parts of the world without electricity, scientists comment.

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