Electromicrobiology – One of the rapidly rising scientific fields

Movement of electrons from microbes (Credit: The Scientist)

Movement of electrons from microbes (Credit: The Scientist)

Introduction:

Electromicrobiology is one of the rising subjects in the field of science. It combines the technology with biology.

In this subject, initially scientists found the transmission of electrical signals between the microbes. On a further note, in this subject, we study about the complex interaction between the microorganisms and technological devices while considering the novel electrical properties of the microorganisms i.e. accepting or donating the electrons from electrodes without any extra addition of electrons.

Some of the examples:

Shewanella oneidensis interacts with electrodes through flavins that work as soluble electron shuttles.

Geobacter sulfurreducens interacts directly with electrodes through c-type cytochromes present on the outer surface.

G. sulfurreducens has pili, known as microbial nanowires that have conducting ability same as metals. With the help of these pili, G. sulfurreducens can transport electrons over a long-range.

Emerging field:

This field is still in the emerging sciences as the mechanism behind the microbe-electrode electron exchange has been studied only in some of the microbes. It is quite possible that some of the microbes, which have not been studied by scientists, could perform better than the presently studied microorganisms.

Ken Nealson of ScienceNews, wrote “I think in 20 years, this may well be a major field.”

Reference:

Lovley, D. (2012). Electromicrobiology Annual Review of Microbiology, 66 (1), 391-409 DOI: 10.1146/annurev-micro-092611-150104