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September 29, 2021

Zapping uranium!

Having known for many years that little wires found on a specific type of bacteria could zap and clean up some 75% of radioactive waste, recently a team of NSF-funded scientists learned how a coating on that same bacteria's surface could trap and soak up the remaining waste like a sponge. Learn more with NSF's "The Discovery Files."

Credit: National Science Foundation

Zapping uranium!

Hi! I'm Mo Barrow with The Discovery Files, from NSF -- the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Ever hear of Geobacter? Well, stay tuned!

Geobacter is a type of bacteria that performs an astonishing feat. It not only manufactures tiny protein filaments that act like little wires which zap uranium, but Geobacter can also soak up uranium, like a sponge.

For many years, scientists could only account for 75% of the radioactive uranium waste Geobacter could clean up with its wires.

10 years later, the same team of researchers, at Michigan State University, discovered how Geobacter was eliminating the rest.

The NSF-funded research showed that, in addition to the zapping wires, Geobacter's cell surface is coated in hungry molecules that trap the remaining uranium waste.

This new discovery could not only increase the likelihood of finding new ways to eliminate dangerous radioactive pollution, but to also recycle and reclaim scarce metals created by electronic waste.

Imagine! Bacteria that zap radioactive uranium waste and soak up the rest!

Discover how the U.S. National Science Foundation is advancing research at

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