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Sunday, 28 August 2016

Bacterial protein can replace copper wires to bring supercomputers

Microbes prevail everywhere and you can find them wherever you want to inspect them. They can be deep under the soil, warm places like hot springs and even in the cold chilly places like Antarctica. A bacterium called Geobacter thrives where organic life can not prevail as reported by the researchers from University of Massachusetts.

Image: pixabay
The Geobacter instead of expelling electrons grow hair like protein filaments and transfer electrons out during oxygen based respiration from cell to the surrounding iron materials. Dr. Derek Lovely, professor of Microbiology at the Institute who was working along with U.S. Navy and his colleagues genetically modified these protein filaments to supercharge their conductivity. They tweaked two amino acids from the protein and increased the conductivity upto 2,000 fold.

“Research like Dr. Lovley’s could lead to the development of new electronic materials to meet the increasing demand for smaller, more powerful computing devices,” said Linda Chrisey, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department, which sponsors the research. “Being able to produce extremely thin wires with sustainable materials has enormous potential application as components of electronic devices such as sensors, transistors and capacitors.”

Like copper wires the filaments conducts electricity in the same way and thus providing new insight to promising alternatives for military’s nanoelectronics. This filament is far better than production of copper wires which make it difficult in resource constrain and laborious purification process. Geobacter can be grown on acetate or acetic acid which is cheap and renewable source. It is also much stable protein even in high temperature or changes in pH.

Geobacter was discovered decade ago but the but the research progressed a year ago.

“We continue to focus on advanced materials in our laboratories and understanding how we can do microbial energy, where we’re taking the positive electrons that are made on the microbes on the seabed, and we’re capturing those, and we’re hooking up some red and black connectors, and we’re gathering the electricity,” ONR’s Rear Adm. Mat Winter said at CSIS. “So we’re not there yet, but … machines at the nano-level are going to be an incredible game-changer.”


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