Friday, September 2, 2011

"Living Nanowire" Could Lead to Better Batteries

Batteries suck. Sure, like any other technology, batteries have improved vastly over the years. But there's just no getting around the fact that the lingering inefficiencies in the ability of batteries to both generate and store energy remains a major defect in all of our favorite portable devices, as well as would be alternative energy technologies like solar power. So as you might imagine, the quest for better batteries is a popular one, and one with many potential solutions. One such solution, to at least some of our battery woes anyway, could be the merging of biology and technology to create organic super-batteries or biological superconductors, using a newly developed living transistor made from bacteria.

A group of biologists and physicists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, recently teamed up to create what they have dubbed "living nanowire", using a strain of bacteria called Geobacter sulfurreducens, which grows long stringy filaments called pili along its body, which it uses to expel electrons generated as a byproduct of it's digestive process. By running current through a small electrode covered in a thin film of the bacteria, researchers were able to measure the conductivity of these filaments, and found that they could conduct electrons better than some metals.

"These nanowire networks showed the same properties of metal networks," Mark Tuominen, professor of physics at UMass and lead author of the paper detailing the findings of the team's research said, "We didn't think nature could make something similar to metal. This is the first time this has been discovered and this is very exciting for us."

Like any new discovery, the potential application of this research is speculative, and no specific details were given as to how or when it could lead to the development of these biological super-batteries; which would also be environmentally-sustainable, as well as cheaper to produce. But given the need for new developments in the world of power storage and generation, there is at least a hope that this discovery might not join the long list of potentially cool new technologies that we never hear from again.


Source: Discovery News
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