A team of scientists from England’s University of East Anglia have announced in the in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. that they have discovered "the exact molecular structure of the proteins which enable bacterial cells to transfer electrical charge." With this knowledge, scientists can start working on technology for tethering bacteria directly to electrodes, which could lead to much more efficient microbial fuel cells or "bio-batteries".
The team utilized X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of the electron-transferring proteins, which were attached to the surface of a shewanella oneidensis bacterium cell.
Dr Tom Clarke of East Anglia’s School of Biological Sciences said that "This is an exciting advance in our understanding of how some bacterial species move electrons from the inside to the outside of a cell. Identifying the precise molecular structure of the key proteins involved in this process is a crucial step towards tapping into microbes as a viable future source of electricity."