Nanowires help bacteria clean up toxic waste

Bacteria are known to be able to clean up toxic metals and even nuclear waste. But now, researchers at Michigan State University have unraveled the mystery of how these small micro-organisms pull off this helpful feat. As it turns out, bacteria like Geobacter have tiny, hair-like appendages known as nanowires that conduct electricity and can basically electroplate and immobilize radioactive material like uranium. The nanowires also shield the bacteria, and allow them to thrive in toxic environments. Since researches can use genetic engineering to produce bacteria with extra nanowires, and the microbes can generate electricity while cleaning up nasty messes, this sounds like a mega breakthrough at the micro level.

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About the Author: David Rothbard

David Rothbard

David Rothbard is co-founder and President of CFACT.