New Fuel Cell Uses Bacteria to Generate Power

Maybe it’s not just a Back to the Future fantasy: If scientists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst keep making progress in developing a “microbial fuel cell,” one day trash might be able to power any number of devices (though probably not a time-traveling DeLorean). In an article in the journal Nature Biotechnology, researchers describe a new, highly efficient type of fuel cell that uses a recently discovered bacteria to turn garbage into electricity. “We are not going to be adding to the power grid at any significant rate soon,” said Derek Lovley, a professor of microbiology at UMass-Amherst. “But with an electric lawn mower, you could use the leaves and clippings to power up the battery for next week.” This research is part of a broader trend to tap the abilities of bacteria to generate power and clean up oil spills and other environmental messes.