A new way to produce energy: growing It

A new way to produce energy: growing It

Feb 6, 2019
A researcher from ICMAB-CSIC holds a sample of the new thermoelectric cellulose produced by bacteria. Image credit: ICMAB
Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Spanish researchers have created bacteria that create cellulose that generates electricity.

Writing in the journal of Energy & Environmental Science, the scientists claim to have developed a device composed of cellulose and carbon nanotubes that conduct electricity. Bacteria in the laboratory grow the cellulose on the nanomaterials.

“Instead of making a material for energy, we cultivate it,” said Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona Researcher Mariano Campoy-Quiles, a study co-author, in a press release. “Bacteria, dispersed in an aqueous culture medium containing sugar and carbon nanotubes, produce the nanocellulose fibers that end up forming the device, in which the carbon nanotubes are embedded.”

The resulting composite can generate electricity from residual heat that would normally go to waste. The electricity could power sensors used in agriculture and tech like the Internet of Things or hybrid photovoltaic-thermoelectric power generation systems. They might especially be useful in wearable tech, including medical and sports devices.

The process is a environmentally friendly and sustainable way to generate energy, said Anna Roig, another co-author. The device contains no toxic elements. Enzymes can break down the cellulose into glucose, leaving the carbon nanotubes behind for recycling.

“The intention is to approach the concept of circular economy, using sustainable materials that are not toxic for the environment, which are used in small amounts, and which can be recycled and reused,” Roig said.

Image credit: ICMAB