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Power-packed bacterial spores generate electricity

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Power-packed bacterial spores generate electricity
With mighty bursts of rehydration, bacterial spores offer a new source of renewable energy.

Bacillus spores quickly shrivel in dry times and bloat with a blast of humidity. The transitions, which take about half a second, pack a powerful punch that biophysicist Ozgur Sahin at Columbia University realized could translate to usable energy. By smearing spores onto a flat piece of rubber about the length of a human hand, Sahin and his colleagues developed a spore-powered generator. In arid conditions, parched spores pull the rubber into a curve, while wafts of wet air plump up spores and spring it flat again.

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The team linked the rubber to an electromagnetic generator, so that every flex produced an electric current. By weight, spore power rivaled the juice in a car battery, Sahin and colleagues report January 26 in Nature Nanotechnology. Since the spores tote such a high energy potential—more than 1,000 times that of mammalian muscle—Sahin and colleagues say energy-harvesting devices based on the dormant dynamos could be linked into municipal grids to contribute a power boost to homes and cities.

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