Sustainable energy generation solutions are necessary to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and power electronics without generating toxic waste. About half of the solar power absorbed on Earth drives evaporation. The production of electricity from water evaporation using engineered materials is a potential technique, but power outputs have been low and the materials used have not been produced sustainably.
Microorganisms are everywhere in nature. Diverse electroactive microorganisms can generate electricity through organic matter oxidation. These “microbial fuel cells” could be used to power microelectronics. However, the demand for constant feeding and proper conditions to maintain cell viability has limited their practical applicability.
In a new study, scientists show that biofilms made from sustainable feedstocks can function as a nonliving biomaterial for evaporation-based energy generation. Current production scales directly with biofilm-sheet size, and skin-patch devices capture enough electricity from the moisture on the skin. The findings can be able to run wearable medical gadgets continually.
Scientists use microorganisms to put the “Green” back into energy production
Researchers recently reported that they developed a biofilm that gathers evaporation energy and converts it to electricity. This biofilm has the potential to change the face of wearable electronics by powering everything from personal medical sensors to gadgets. The findings show that suitably constructed biofilms could outperform manufactured materials without further processing. The prevalence of biofilms in nature offers the possibility of additional biomaterial sources for evaporation-based power generation and the potential of harvesting electricity from different aquatic settings.
The biofilm, a thin sheet of bacterial cells roughly the thickness of a sheet of paper, is created naturally by an engineered variant of the bacteria Geobacter sulfurreducens. The bacteria are known to produce electricity and have previously been used to power electrical devices in “microbial batteries.”
In contrast, this new biofilm, which may supply as much, if not more, energy than a comparably sized battery, operates and works continuously. It also doesn’t need to be fed because it is dead. The key to this new biofilm’s success is that it generates energy from the moisture on the skin. We hear about solar power daily, but at least 50% of the solar energy that reaches the Earth functions to evaporate water. Because the surface of our skin is always wet with sweat, the biofilm can “plugin” and turn the evaporation energy into enough energy to power small gadgets. The use of renewable resources to make clean energy harvesting devices can help to improve sustainability even more.
The continuous electrical generation from skin moisture has enormous potential in clinical applications. From the ability to power wearable medical devices to sustaining the environment, a wide array of applications of this research is clinically significant. Since biofilms are renewable, they have long-lasting use.
The necessity to create green energy and protect the environment is vital. Since microorganisms are everywhere in nature, this research shows a good use for them by using biofilms to produce more efficient energy sources. The findings can apply to medical devices that can help track patients’ health more effectively.