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Deep-sea battery comes to light

Microbes fuel electrical current at hydrothermal vents

By
5:05pm, December 9, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO — Scientists have discovered an unusual kind of battery at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean: a living one, fueled by microbes that live near hydrothermal vents.

As they munch on noxious chemicals bubbling from the seafloor, these critters create electrical currents that flow through the walls of the chimneylike structures they inhabit.

“The amount of power produced by these microbes is rather modest,” said Harvard biologist and engineer Peter Girguis, who presented his research December 5 at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. “But you could technically produce power in perpetuity.”

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