Electricus aureus: A (synthetic) microbe that produces electricity


I have written about iGEM earlier. It is an international competition where undergraduate teams compete to develop synthetic life forms with some relevant application. The annual event aims at promoting synthetic biology across the globe. This post is about one of the teams participating in iGEM 2013. As the University of York celebrates its golden jubilee, a team of 14 of its undergraduates in Biology and Biochemistry envision a future where our energy requirements would be met with bacteria, – yes bacteria!- synthesized in the lab.

The Project

Presently existing microbial fuel cells are very inefficient. The team aims at overcoming the inefficiency by genetically modifying a strain of E.coli (provided in the kits allotted to each of the iGEM teams at the start of the summer). They will develop genetic modules analogous to electric circuits which will (1) increase conductivity of the anode through deposition of gold nano-particles within the battery and (2) amplify the current upto 10 times through high secretion of electrons from electron pumps on the microorganisms’ membrane. The gold nano-particles will be derived as gold salts from pharmaceutical waste as it is often used as a catalyst in drug synthesis. The electricity generated from the modified bacteria will be utilized to power a microbial fuel cell.  Imagine a future where your mobile would be charged by bacteria derived from waste. Power doesn’t get any cleaner or cheaper!

Here is a video prepared by the York iGEM 2013 team, demonstrating a glimpse into their vision.

Funding

The team has managed to raise quite a sum through departmental funding and corporate sponsorships through a few companies which manufacture lab equipments and consumables. For further funding, the team has set up a project on Microryza. You can also remain updated with the project by joining them on their Facebook or Google+.

Click here to view York iGEM 2013 team’s project on Microbial Fuel Cells and fund them.

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