Several of these bacteria are normally found in the stratosphere, 30 kilometres above the earth’s surface. The microbes are a key component in a new biofilm. Together with over 70 different strains of bacteria they were tested for their power-generation ability using a Microbial Fuel Cell (a kind of battery which uses bacteria to convert organic compounds directly into electricity).
The microbe from the stratosphere - Bacillus stratosphericus - was one of the ‘super bugs’ which managed to nearly double the output of the Microbial Fuel Cell to 200 milliwatts per cubic metre. This should be enough to power a light bulb.
Professor of Marine Biotechnology Burgess: "This is the first time individual microbes have been studied and selected in this way. Finding B.Stratosphericus was quite a surprise but what it demonstrates is the potential of this technique for the future – there are billions of microbes out there with the potential to generate power."
It’s not quite a goodbye to fossil fuels yet, but perhaps in the future ‘bugs from space’ will be powering our lights and appliances.
Newcastle University press release - 'Bugs from space offer new source of power'