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Bacteria Synthesizing Network of Protein Nanofilaments

<em>Geobacter sulfurreducens</em> cells synthesizing a network of protein nanofilaments

A transmission electron micrograph of Geobacter sulfurreducens cells synthesizing a network of protein nanofilaments that exhibit metallic-like conductivity.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst discovered a fundamental, previously unknown property of microbial nanowires in the bacterium G. sulfurreducens that allows electron transfer across long distances and could revolutionize nanotechnology and bioelectronics. The discovery was made by lead microbiologist Derek Lovley and physicists Mark Tuominen, Nikhil Malvankar and colleagues. The researchers say that networks of bacterial filaments, known as microbial nanowires because they conduct electrons along their length, can move charges as efficiently as synthetic, organic, metallic nanostructures, and they can do it over remarkable distances, thousands of times the bacterium's length. The finding may one day lead to cheaper, less-toxic nanomaterials for biosensors.

The research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (grant CMMI 05-31171). To learn more, see the UMass-Amherst news story UMass-Amherst research team discovers new conducting properties of bacteria-produced wires. (Date of Image: June 2011)

Credit: Anna Klimes and Ernie Carbone, UMass-Amherst
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