Swiss scientists create E.coli bacteria that can produce electricity

Swiss scientists create E.coli bacteria that can produce electricity

In what is likely to be one of the more peculiar discoveries of the week, scientists in Lausanne have successfully modified E.coli bacteria so that it is able to produce energy from metabolising wastewater. It is hoped that the new innovation will revolutionise how water is cleaned and how energy is produced and stored. 

E.coli bacteria modified to produce electricity

In a statement given to 20 Minuten, the team from the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) confirmed that they had successfully modified the nature of E.coli bacteria “so that it produces electricity.” Professor Ardemis Boghossian, project leader at the university, said that the bacteria is now able to use wastewater and other compounds to make energy.

The EPFL press statement explained that while some naturally occurring microbes are able to produce electricity, they are only able to do so in certain conditions and by using specific compounds. By transforming the E.coli bacteria - using a process called extracellular electron transfer - the organism was able to produce power by performing basic metabolic processes.

Swiss invention set to revolutionise energy production and recycling

“Instead of injecting energy into the system to process organic waste, we produce electricity while processing organic waste, thus killing two birds with one stone,” Boghossian explained. "We even tested our technology directly on wastewater that we collected in a brewery in Lausanne... our modified electrical bacteria were able to multiply rapidly by feeding on this waste.”

It is hoped that the breakthrough will be able to revolutionise how organic waste is treated and could also lead to modified E.coli being used in environmentally friendly fuel cells and other green technologies. For more information about the latest Swiss invention, check out the official press release.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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