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Microbes live on electricity!

Scientists from the Harvard University discovered how certain bacteria get their energy out of electrons pulled from the environment. Some microbes as we already know have the ability to obtain energy from extreme sources like sulfur, formic acid, minerals, and now electricity.

Rhodopseudomonas palustris are gram-negative bacteria that has unique ability to obtain energy from the environment to employ photoautotropic, photoheterotrophic, chemoautotrophic, or chemoheterotrophic metabolism. Electrons are the energy currency for most forms of life and they are exchanged through oxidation-reduction reactions.

R.palustris was found to be able to acquire electrons from materials in the solid phase, while most others require electron donors and acceptors to be in solution. Subsequent experiments showed that a certain gene is responsible for the majority of electron uptake. One of these metabolic mechanisms involving this gene allows the bacteria to obtain energy through extracellular electron transfer.



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