ROCKVILLE, Md. - Scientists from The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and collaborators, funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), have decoded and analyzed the genome of a bacterium,Geobacter sulfurreducens, which has the ability to produce electricity from waste matter.

In a report published in the December 12 issue of Science, the researchers noted that they found the bacterium possesses the ability to transport electrons and "reduce" metal ions as part of its energy-generating metabolism. The authors conclude that Geobacter has the potential for electricity generation.

Reduction is a chemical process during which electrons are added to metal ions. As a result, the metals become less soluble (dissolvable) in water and precipitate into solids, which are more easily removed. Small charges of electricity are also created through the reduction process.

"We've provided a comprehensive picture that has led to fundamental changes in how scientists evaluate this microbe," said Barbara Methe, the TIGR researcher who led the genome project and is the first author of the Science paper.

Last year, a University of Massachusetts team had reported in Science that Geobacter sulfurreducens and other Geobacter species have the ability to harvest electricity from mud and other forms of waste inorganic matter. Scientists say that capability shows promise for such uses as powering electronic devices in remote locations, as well as the conversion of sewage and renewable biomass to electricity and the development of improved microbial fuel cells.

Publication date: 12/22/2003