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Cyborg Bacteria

Cyborg Bacteria
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Scientists have created cyborg bacteria - microbes covered with tiny, highly efficient solar panels - that are better than plants at harvesting the...

Scientists have created cyborg bacteria - microbes covered with tiny, highly efficient solar panels - that are better than plants at harvesting the Suns energy to produce fuel from carbon dioxide and water. Photosynthesis provides energy for the vast majority of life on Earth.

However, chlorophyll, the green pigment that plants use to harvest sunlight, is relatively inefficient. To enable humans to capture more of the Suns energy than natural photosynthesis can, scientists have taught bacteria to cover themselves in tiny, highly efficient solar panels to produce useful compounds.

"Rather than rely on inefficient chlorophyll to harvest sunlight, I have taught bacteria how to grow and cover their bodies with tiny semiconductor nanocrystals," said Kelsey K Sakimoto, from University of California, Berkeley in the US. "These nanocrystals are much more efficient than chlorophyll and can be grown at a fraction of the cost of manufactured solar panels," said Sakimoto. Humans increasingly are looking to find alternatives to fossil fuels as sources of energy and feedstocks for chemical production, reports PTI.

For the first in October 2016, Researchers at ETH Zurich’s Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) in Basel created a cyborg – a hybrid creature that is part machine and part living organism. The organism in question is the E. coli bacterium, which is used frequently in biological research; the machine is a computer fitted with the most modern control technology that regulates the growth of the bacteria.

Machine and organism are linked via two interfaces: the computer communicates with red and green light, which the biotechnologically modified bacteria are able to perceive. In the opposite direction, communication functions via an optical measurement of the growth rate of the bacteria culture, the results of which are fed into the computer in real-time.

“In my opinion, internal cell control in the long run is the better option for therapeutic uses, for example, in cell therapy, since they can function autonomously without extra hardware,” says Khammash, adding, “For the biotechnological production of molecules in a bioreactor, on the other hand, external control via an interface, as we have developed here, is much more feasible,” according to www.ethz.ch.

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