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Termalni vrelec v parku Yellowstone. Vir: NPS
Thermal Spring in Yellowstone National Park. Credit: NPS

Bacteria that feed on electricity

Researchers have found bacteria in thermal springs that breathe and feed on electricity.

Yellowstone National Park in the United States has many thermal springs as a result of the largest volcanic eruption in the history of the Earth.

The hot water in these pools is home to various types of thermophilic bacteria. These are bacteria that live at high temperatures.

The temperature in thermal springs varies between 45 °C and 95 °C. Because of the thermophilic bacteria, thermal springs often have strong, bright colours.

The researchers placed metal bars connected to electricity in four hot springs. These were sources of electrons or electric currents.

After 32 days, a variety of bacteria that feed on electrons were gathered on these rods.

The directional motion of electrons is called an electric current. We can imagine it as a flow of water in a tube, but instead of a liquid, there is an infinite number of small balls called electrons.

The electrons are the key to generating energy in our body.

Humans and animals obtain electrons by consuming sugar. From this sugar electrons bond and initiate the process of energy generation in cells. Finally, the electrons jump onto oxygen molecules and are exhaled.

The thermophilic bacteria in the thermal springs of Yellowstone Park take electrons from the surfaces on which they grow, and emit them into the environment. In this way, they create a kind of weak electric current.

In the future such bacteria could be a portable and independent source of electricity. They could also be important in disposing of hazardous waste.

***

The original version of this article was published on March 20th.

English translation courtesy of JL FlannerTotal Slovenia News, an English language website with news from and about Slovenia.

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