The research work was braced by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) that dates back to the series of studies that Derek Lovely, a lecturer at UM Amherst introduced in 2011. “Experiment like Dr. Lovely’s could result in to the development of novel electronic substances to meet the enhanced demand for a minute, more robust, computing gadgets,” says Linda Chrisey, a program expert in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department.
“With an efficiency to generate highly sleek wires with sustainable materials has massive potential application as elements of electrical devices like transistors, sensors, and capacitors,” says Linda. The bacteria, which Lovely has employed in his study is called as Geobacters. They comprise nanoscale protein filaments expanding outward from their bodies. Such protein filaments are the primary basis for bacterial growth, as they enable it to make electronic linkages to the iron oxide present in the soil where it grows. While such linkages enable the Geobacter to survive, it was thought that they would never be able to generate electricity to the level that it would ever be beneficial for human interests, called electronics.
Figure 1: Genetically Modified Bacteria
To enable bacteria to perform that task, lovely transformed the genetic makeup of bacteria by substituting two of its amino acids with tryphtophan, which is a chemical that causes sleepiness. “As we get to know more about the functionality of microbial nanowires, we realized it might be possible to enhance the design of nature,” says Lovely. “We reorganized the amino acids to generate a synthetic nanowire that we considered to be more conductive. We considered that Geobatcer may still create nanowires and enhance their conductivity.”
In the present research, Lovely and his group were able to obtain bacteria nanowires to function beyond all expectations. The genetically transformed bacteria were around 2,000 times as conductive as they were during their natural existence. With the bigger conductivity came the two other novel traits that are smaller size and greater durability.
While applications for the nanowires based on bacteria could be far varying as digital medical sensors and electronics, the study was supported by the ONR, so that military applications are probably going to be huge on the priority list. ONR confirms that the nanowires could prove effective in delivering electrical currents to microbes that would, in turn, generate the fuel butanol.
Conclusion – Also, such nanowires could offer electricity to microbes that are situated on silicon chips and are utilized to identify chemicals, like explosive substances. The main scientist Lovely added that “it is an exciting time to be on the cutting edge of preparing novel forms of electronic materials. The truth that we can perform similar tasks with renewable, sustainable materials makes it even more lucrative.”