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Technology and Health News > Saturday, March-08-2008

The electron runs on vitamins

How can you convert waste into energy in the most efficient way possible? The secret is in riboflavin.

The microorganisms have the ability to change the chemistry of the environment. This is known for a long time, but if some of these can generate energy from the degradation of organic compounds has not yet been clarified. One answer comes from an American study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Pnas): BioTechnology researchers from the Institute of the University of Minnesota have found that the riboflavin, better known as vitamin B-2, is the key to the production of electricity by the microorganism Shewanella, a bacterium that is commonly found in water and soil.

In nature some bacteria need to come into contact with metals like iron to 'consume' it. To do this direct contact is made by the electrons to the metal, altering its chemical properties. In this way the bacterium Shewanella is able to convert simple organic compounds such as lactic acid, and in the process produces electricity.

With experiments in physical chemistry where Shewanella have been growing on electrodes, the interdisciplinary team led by Daniel Bond has shown that the bacterium produces spontaneously riboflavin. The vitamin acts as carrier of electrons and facilitates their transition from the microorganism to the electrodes. The researchers noted that, thanks to the buildup of riboflavin, electricity production increased by 370 percent.

This discovery opens new avenues in the development of innovative strategies for the ecology and for renewables. Of course, using a microorganism to generate electricity on a large scale for the transport industry, homes or businesses is still science fiction, but the production of small amounts of energy or the solution to the recycling of metals could be here in the near future.

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Comments for The electron runs on vitamins


Nice find!
posted by Iroh at Sunday, March-09-2008 12:20pm

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