Researchers at Oxford University have revealed the possibility of using bacteria-generated power in our daily life applications, such as recharging a smartphone. According to Dr Tyler Shendruk, one of the researchers who carried out the study, “it was possible to generate 'tiny amounts of power' from organized 'biological systems', which means in a few years we could all have smartphones with bacteria charged battery.”
Normally occurring bacteria suspensions have a rapid rate of flow in no particular pattern, making it complicated to order and extract power. Using computer simulations, the researches used a lattice of 64 microrotors and found that they were able to organise themselves in a system surprisingly similar to wind farms, with bacteria pushing the rotors in opposite directions, and thus forming a steady source of power.
Co-author of the paper, Dr Shendruk said, “The amazing thing is that we did not have to pre-design microscopic gear-shaped turbines. The rotors just self-assembled into a sort of bacterial windfarm”.
Professor Julia Yeomans, a senior author of the project, predicted the potential impact the results could have in designing technology in the future. Dr Yeomans said, “Nature is brilliant at creating tiny engines, and there is enormous potential if we can understand how to exploit similar designs”.
Dr Armin Doostmohammadi, another researcher on the project, stated that even power as diminutive as the bacteria shows would be valuable in the engineering of various devices as they did not require an outside power source for generation.
At the moment, the possible implications for the study could range from optical switches to smartphone microphones. The team's findings shed new light on potential sources of energy. “Many of society's energy challenges are on a gigawatt scale, but some are downright microscopic,” added Dr Shendruk.
The study is published in the journal Science Advances.