Last updated April 12, 2019
Those who bemoan the lack of ways to power up their old cell phone could be in for a surprise. New research is looking into the possibility of powering up used cell phones with bacteria. All living things give off energy and scientists at the Pacific Northwest Laboratory and England’s University of East Anglia, who have been studying a particular variety of bacteria, believe they have found a way to harness the energy that those bacteria are giving off.
The bacteria in question, known as Shewanella oneidensis, are able to live in environments which are entirely devoid of oxygen and have microscopic “wires” sticking into the walls of their cells through which they release excess electricity, and scientists believe it may be possible create electrodes with contacts that might actually be able to pick up those electrical charges and then use them for our own purposes.
“We should be able to use this finding to harvest more electricity from the bacteria,” says the lead author of the new study, Tom Clarke. “Until now it’s been like trying to build a radio when you don’t know what type or size or what battery to put into it. Now we have a blueprint of what the battery looks like.”
Before anyone gets too excited about the possibilities however, the scientists caution that it will be many years before the technology that is able to harvest the bacteria’s electricity will be efficient enough to make any real use of it.