Soon, electricity to be produced from bugs

Microbes may be harnessed more easily to generate energy after a finding about how they naturally let off tiny electrical charges, scientists said on Monday. The bacteria, found to have microscopic “wires” sticking through their cell walls, might also be used to clean up oil spills or uranium pollution, according to the report in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The discovery about the exact structure of the bacteria and their atom-sized wires would permit researchers to design electrodes with better contacts to pick up the charges, let off by the microbes to avoid a build-up of electricity. “We should be able to use this finding to harvest more electricity from the bacteria,” lead author Tom Clarke of the University of East Anglia in England said.

“Until now it has been a bit like trying to build a radio when you don’t know what type or size of battery you are going to put into it,” he said. “Now we have a blueprint of what battery looks like,” he said of the study, also involving scientists at the US Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “Identifying the precise molecular structure of the key proteins involved in this process is a crucial step towards tapping into microbes as a viable future source of electricity,” Clarke said. “All living things generate electricity, it’s not the stuff of science fiction.”

Humans, for instance, use electricity to keep their hearts pumping and brains thinking. And the bacteria use their wires to discharge excess electricity. “If they get a build-up of charge then everything else stops,” from feeding to respiration, he said. Still, it could take perhaps a decade to develop use of the bacteria, a type called Shewanella oneidensis that live in oxygen-free environments, as an attractive power source for everything from lights to mobile phone chargers.

You might also be interested in

X factor: Women find proud men, not happy ones, attractive!

Women tend to find happy men less attractive than those who look proud and powerful, a new study has suggested. In contrast, men are most likely to get attracted to women who look happy, and least to those who appear proud and confident, found the University of British Columbia study.

According to the researchers, the study is the first to report a major gender difference in the attractiveness of smiles, and helps explain the enduring allure of “bad boys” and other iconic gender stereotypes. It is also the first study to investigate the attractiveness of displays of pride and shame, said Jessica Tracy, who led the study. “While showing a happy face is usually considered essential to friendly social interactions, including those involving sexual attraction – few studies have actually examined whether a smile is, in fact, actually attractive,” Tracy explained.

“It finds that men and women respond very differently to displays of emotion, including smiles,” she said. For their study, the researchers asked more than 1,000 adult participants to rate the sexual attractiveness of hundreds of images of the opposite sex. These photos included universal displays of happiness (broad smiles), pride (raised heads, puffed-up chests) and shame (lowered heads, averted eyes). The researchers found that women were last attracted to smiling, happy men – in contrast to men, who were most attracted to women who looked happy.

You might also be interested in