Essay: Geobacter in 1987, Derek Lovley Was Searching

Pages: 4 (1257 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 25  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Energy

Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
for $19.77


In 1987, Derek Lovley was searching the "muddy bottom of the Potomac River just downstream from Washington, D.C., in search of the microscopic creature he believed was interacting with subsurface iron oxide to make phosphorous" (Davis). What he ended up discovering was Geobacter metallireducers, designated GS-15 ("About Geobacter"). This micro-organism has been found to capable of doing some pretty amazing stuff. It may be used to remediate contaminated soil and power batteries, for a variety of useful applications. Geobacter is a reddish-colored micro-organism and are of particular interest due to "their electron transfer capabilities, impact on the natural environment and their application to the bioremediation of contaminated environment and harvesting electricity from waste organic matter" ("About Geobacter").

Geobacter can actually eat groundwater and soil contaminants. Materials dangerous to the environment, such as benzene and MBTE, a gasoline additive, can all be consumed by the handy microbes, even in an environment that's oxygen-free. They're at work cleaning Boston Harbor and have been found to live in dentists' spit sinks. Although they can't decontaminate radioactive material, they do "flourish in uranium-contaminated sites, converting soluble radioactive material to one that's insoluble in groundwater, so it's easier to isolate for cleanup" (Davis).

Davis notes, in addition to their ability to act as a microbial remediation team, Geobacter actually exhales electricity when they breathe in iron oxide, through the 20 to 30 hair-like structures, on the micro-organism, each just 3 to 5 nanometers in diameter, called pili, lined up along one side of the organism. This process finds the bacteria creating webs of electrical wiring, linking each of the bacteria into a web-like electrical circuit. Through this formation, Geobacter is able to rid their bodies of the electrons that were generated during their metabolism process. In nature, this web transports these excess electrons to a distant 'electron dump', making the earth act like a gigantic circuit, for the microbes ("Bacteria")

There are a variety of practical applications that could find this discovery quite useful. The electronics industry could utilize Geobacter Microbial Fuel Cells (MFC) in place of manufacturing nanowires, which come from expensive metals and silica. Geobacter fuel cells could be placed in medical devices that are implanted in a patient, with the organisms feeding off the patient's own blood sugar to power the device, meaning the batteries would never need to be replaced (Davis). Dr. Leonard Tender, at the Naval Research Laboratory, has put this research into use in his Benthic Unattended Generator (BUG). This Geobacter MFC is being utilized to power remote instruments and sensors deployed in marine environments (Greer).

The use of bacteria to generate power is not a new idea. Nearly a century ago, an English botany professor discovered the phenomenon. In fact, Geobacter batteries are similar to bacterial batteries created by scientists, where sugar-eating microbes from the ocean are used to produce electricity from their metabolic process ("Green Energy"). However, in the past, MFCs didn't generate enough power to attract the interest of serious applications. Thanks to technological advancements though, commercial applications for MFCs are likely just around the corner (Greer).

The premise of a Geobacter MFC is similar to a traditional battery. There are two chambers, one which contains an anode and the other which contains a cathode. Geobacter, and their ability to live in an anaerobic environment, are located in the anode chamber. There, they consume and oxidize organic wastes. This process then generates electrons and protons, as their natural metabolic byproduct. These electrons and protons are attracted to oxygen in the cathode chamber and move towards the chamber via two distinct paths. A selective membrane separating the two chambers allows the protons to pass through to the cathode. The negatively charged electrons, on the other hand, are transferred to the anode and travel via… [END OF PREVIEW]

Two Ordering Options:

Which Option Should I Choose?
1.  Buy full paper (4 pages)Download Microsoft Word File

Download the perfectly formatted MS Word file!

- or -

2.  Write a NEW paper for me!✍🏻

We'll follow your exact instructions, guaranteed!
Chat with the writer 24/7.

Search and Seizure Law Term Paper

Search Warrant Request Probable Cause Statement Research Paper

Search Engine Heart Disease Lovenox vs. Aspirin Research Paper

Search Me the Surprise Success of Google by Neil Taylor Term Paper

Search and Seizure in the Case Scenario Term Paper

View 1,000+ other related papers  >>

Cite This Essay:

APA Format

Geobacter in 1987, Derek Lovley Was Searching.  (2008, December 6).  Retrieved December 11, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Geobacter in 1987, Derek Lovley Was Searching."  6 December 2008.  Web.  11 December 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Geobacter in 1987, Derek Lovley Was Searching."  December 6, 2008.  Accessed December 11, 2019.