May 17, 2020

Growing Electrical Wires with Bacteria?

shewanella
nanotube
wire
Electric
Admin
2 min
A bacteria called Shewanella is being researched for its ability to organically grow electrically conductive wires.
Bacteria are the most resilient life forms on this planet (and perhaps others), and researchers are discovering new bacterial strains that often defy o...

Bacteria are the most resilient life forms on this planet (and perhaps others), and researchers are discovering new bacterial strains that often defy our general understanding of how biological life can thrive.  Take for example, Shewanella, a bacteria that uses metal ions to live and grow in place of oxygen.  This bacteria sends out microscopic wires filled with various proteins to surrounding metallic elements, and an electron transfer process occurs.  The process is highly misunderstood, but essentially allows for the bacteria to live off of metal.   

Shewanella can also transform metals and trap them within solid mineral deposits, and researchers from the University of East Anglia and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are working to figure out how to utilize this bacteria’s unique ability in practical applications.  For instance, Shewanella’s metalworking abilities are already being considered as a way to prevent toxic metals from leaking into groundwater supplies.

More interesting, however, is the possibility of using Shewanella to grow microscopic conductive electrical wires for use in fuel cells and to expand the field of synthetic biology.  The university and national laboratory research team has isolated and determined the structure of one of the protein strains used by Shewanella to interact, manipulate, and live off of metal.

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Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have gone as far as labeling the electrical wires extruded from Shewanella as “nanotubes,” which up until now have been chemically engineered in laboratory settings.  Biologically grown nanotubes that can carry an electrical charge may prove to be far cheaper to produce than their laboratory counterpart.  The process of organic nanotube manufacturing is also far more environmentally friendly than the toxic metals and chemicals used in chemical manufacturing of microscopic electronic conductors for computers and other devices.   

The idea of biologically engineered energy is not science fiction, but is a very real possibility as advances—particularly in bacterial research—unfold.  Soon, we may be growing our power lines, and power stations will be running with the help of living organisms!

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Jul 30, 2021

Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector

marineenergy
renewableenergy
tidalturbine
Sustainability
3 min
The UK’s nascent marine energy sector starts exporting electricity to the grid as the most powerful tidal turbine in the world begins to generate power

Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre

At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable. 

How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?

Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.” 

“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement. 

The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.

“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government. 

“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.

“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”

However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future. 

We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.” 

The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours

This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly

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