FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, November 01, 2004

Big Energy From a Small Source

Researchers believe that microbes are a potential source of renewable energy. By outputting hydrogen during photosynthesis, algae may be able to generate enough to create commerically viable amounts of hydrogen fuel.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania think that such methods of creating hydrogen could become practical within 10 years. They also see potential in the fact that some microbes generate minute amounts of electricity as they break down organic matter, leading to the possibility of "microbial fuel cells" that run on virtually any biodegradable material.

The present challenge appears to be getting enough yield out of the microbes. Researchers are experimenting with ways to make bacteria more efficient at generating energy, and to optimize the conditions for these bacteria.