MIT has a competition known as the international Genetically engineered machine competition (iGEM). 10 students from Bielefeld have decided to work towards creating a bio-battery.
The idea is to take bacteria known as Escherichia coli and use it to convert glucose to energy. They started the project in May and have worked on the project in their free time in a laboratory in order to see their idea come to life.
The first test results came back and now they are at a stage of the project that is considered the most important part.
One of the team members by the name of Thorben Meyer went into detail on how the idea cam about. The team members knew that the demand for alternative energy in the world is at a record high. Governments, citizens, and non-profits are all grasping for ways to make their renewable energy dream come true.
The world has jumped the gun on conserving fossil fuels and closing down nuclear power plants and so a race is on to speed up the renewable energy advances in science.
Conventional batteries do not help with cleaning up the environment either and so they decided it would be best to focus on something besides large scale electricity production that pollutes the environment but on household batteries which also pollute and have very harmful things in them.
Many people dispose of their household batteries in their trash cans which make there way to land fills. These batteries have heavy metals and dangerous inorganic and organic electrolytes that can be released into the environment when they hit the landfills.
The Bio-Battery Represent an Alternative Energy Source
The Bielefel iGEM team has the main goal of creating an environmentally friendly bio-battery that is made up of Microbial fuel cells also known as MFC. This type of battery takes bacteria and transforms it into energy.
The bio-battery works very similar to a conventional battery but has the difference of containing bacteria in the anode area of the battery instead of the conventional electrolytes.
The bacteria breaks down glucose in a metabolic process which produces electrons which get started from the anode and delivered in an external loop to the cathode.
The external circuit becomes one with the battery-powered application such as a light bulb or small motor. This is the process of how a bio-battery can generate electric energy.
There are a great deal of advantages with this type of bio-battery such as simple construction for use in less developed areas of the world. A bio-battery is not dependent on the weather so unlike solar and wind you can have electricity anytime you need it.
As you nourish the battery you get more energy from the battery and it really i as simple as that. The more impressive advantage to the bio-battery is that there is an inexhaustible amount of bacteria to create an unending supply of energy so long as they are supplied with substrates.
Right now the research in the laboratory is focused on picking the most effcicient type of bacterial organisms and their genetic components for the job.
By considering the combination of differing genes it is possible to optimize the organism Escherichia coli with the end game to generate electricity in the most efficient manner.
The students have been able to report on some beginning successes such as the isolation of various genes that will be used to carry electrons and the creation of the application that will be used to produce the electricity.
They plan to have an optimized bio-battery ready to go for small-scale use created by the time the preliminary round of the iGEM has been decided.
These Students Have Taken This Beyond The Lab
The team has to garner support via corporate sponsors to the tune of 20,000 Euros to take part in the competition so they can afford such things as travel and accommodation expenses.
These students have to make these contest arrangements, laboratory work, etc. all the while continuing their school studies. The main motivational factor for these 10 Molecular Biotechnology and Genome-Based Systems Biology students is simply to see a project through to completion and measure up nicely next to present modern day young scientists.
Beond measuring up the students will have a better idea of what it means to be involved in researching the processes and innovations that are available in the area of synthetic biology which most students will not have the chance to do until out of college.
The students have the full support of Professor Dr. Alfred Pühler, Professor Dr. Erwin Flaschel, Dr. Jörn Kalinowski as well as Dr. Christian Rückert from CeBiTec (Center for Biotechnology) from Bielefeld University
The Battle For The Top Award is Not Over
The iGEM competition is a fiercely fought after competition as it means a lot for those who win it both professionally and in what is accomplished in the process of becoming a winning team of scientists.
The contest is held annually at MIT since 2004 and what started as a course at MIT now is a contest with over 210 teams for year 2013. There is not a single better competition in the area of synthetic biology in all the world and it offers a proving ground for the next scientific geniuses of this era. The European first round takes place in Lyon, France from October 11-13th. From there the European teams will be decided and go on to Boston to take part in the final competition. It will not be out of line if Bielefeld University wins the competition considering they have been in the top 16 teams in the world the last two years in a row.