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Sweet-toothed microbe tapped for power

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12:57pm, October 21, 2003

A whip-tailed bacterium wrenches electrons from sugars so effectively that researchers have harnessed the organism to make an extraordinarily efficient fuel cell.

As many fuel cells do, this tabletop device includes two membrane-separated chambers, each one containing an electrode immersed in an aqueous solution. To one chamber, Swades K. Chaudhuri and Derek R. Lovley of the University of Massachusetts–Amherst added the bacterium Rhodoferax ferrireducens. The microbes pump more than 80 percent of the glucose's removable electrons from the chamber's liquid into an electric circuit, the scientists report in the October Nature Biotechnology.

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