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Biologists discover electric bacteria that eat pure electrons rather than sugar, redefining the tenacity of life

Biologists discover electric bacteria that eat pure electrons rather than sugar redefining the tenacity of life ExtremeTech


Some intrepid biologists at the University of Southern California (USC) have discovered bacteria that survives on nothing but electricity — rather than food, they eat and excrete pure electrons. These bacteria yet again prove the almost miraculous tenacity of life — but, from a technology standpoint, they might also prove to be useful in enabling the creation of self-powered nanoscale devices that clean up pollution. Some of these bacteria also have the curious ability to form into ‘biocables,’ microbial nanowires that are centimeters long and conduct electricity as well as copper wires — a capability that might one day be tapped to build long, self-assembling subsurface networks for human use.

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How can a living creature survive on electrons??

Sunlight powers most of the ecosystem, essentially by producing electrons.  But eating them directly is something I hadn't heard of before.  Apparently we now know about several organisms that do this trick in some sense.  Start gene splicing that!

There's actually a relationship between sugar and electrons:

Life is powered by the shuffling of electrons. When organisms break down a food source like a sugar, they're really extracting high-energy electrons, which they shuffle down through intermediate proteins before they end up in a final electron acceptor. For most of the life we're familiar with, that acceptor is oxygen. But for various microbes that thrive in the absence of oxygen, a variety of other chemicals are used.

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