The more scientists tinker around in muddy ponds, filthy mines and, yes, laboratories, the more methods for producing clean energy they discover. The latest comes from a team at Newcastle University who found and isolated 75 different bacterial strains that had fallen from the atmosphere into the West Estuary of County Durham. By isolating the most efficient species and combining them, they have created the world's most powerful microbial fuel cell. "Microbial Fuel Cells, which work in a similar way to a battery, use bacteria to convert organic compounds directly into electricity by a process known as bio-catalytic oxidation," Newcastle University's press office explained in a release. "A biofilm—or ‘slime’—coats the carbon electrodes of the MFC and as the bacteria feed, they produce electrons which pass into the electrodes and generate electricity." In other words, it's slime that makes electricity.
Although this particular microbial fuel cell is impressive, it's not going to replace coal anytime soon. It does, however, produce enough electricity to power lightbulbs and basic electronics—a hopeful sign that it could provide a cheap energy solution for the developing world. We can add this to the running list of amazing new sustainable sources of power. Also high up on that list: "Cambridge Crude," the liquid battery for refueling electric cars, and "cow patties," the stuff you want to avoid stepping in the next time you visit a farm.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.