Researchers have created what they call a "living nanowire
" using an usual type of bacteria that has long filaments outside its body and conducts electrons better than some metals. This could be an important first step in merging biological systems with electronics for small organic batteries or biological superconductors that are much cheaper to produce than silicon-chip based technologies.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst
. Lead author on the paper, Mark Tuominen
, explains that humans and animals typically get rid of electrons through breathing, but the bacteria get rid of electrons through their pili
, the long filaments that are used as the nanowire. In the bacteria these electrons are created as a byproduct of the digestive process, because bacteria living in anaerobic zones don't have oxygen molecules to carry any electrons like humans and animals do.