Aside from crop-based biofuels, few sectors of renewable energy have attracted as much attention as microbial fuel cells. With companies like LS9 and Amyris leading the way, the idea of engineering bacteria to produce new sources of energy has become an increasingly marketable one as gas prices continue to soar.
This high level of interest has also prompted a groundswell of new research in universities and government-funded science institutions aimed at finding ways to make these nascent technologies more practical and efficient. Scientists from Washington University and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) recently formed a partnership to study how electrochemically active, biomass-eating bacteria could be used in microbial fuel cells.Mike Cotta, who leads the ARS Fermentation Biotechnology Research Unit, and Lars Angenent, an assistant professor at WU, will use the Microbial Culture Collection - an ARS-funded database with accessions from about 87,000 freeze-dried bacteria from around the world - to specifically isolate anaerobic bacteria that could help produce hydrogen. Electrochemically active bacteria are able to transfer electrons from fuel cell sugars - which, after traveling through a circuit, can be combined with protons in a cathode chamber to form hydrogen. This can then be burned or converted directly into electricity.
Two taxa that are showing early promise include Bacteroides and Shewanella.
Via ::ScienceDaily: Microbes Plus Sugars Equals Hydrogen Fuel? (news website)
See also: ::Breakthrough: Fuel Cells Using Enzymes from Bacteria, ::Using Woody Biomass To Extract Hydrogen From Water & Carbon From The Atmosphere, ::You Got Bacteria in My Gas: Engineering Microbes to Make Hydrocarbons