Biophysicists at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles discovered that some bacteria can grow hairs that resemble semiconductors. The electrically conduting hairs are used to share energy, give up electrons and perhaps even communicate. Tjhe research could be useful for the development of future bactercia fuel cells.
The Shewanella oneidensis bacteria were seen in action as living biological circuits for the first time by researchers, who tested the ability of the microbes to close a circuit between microscopic electrodes.
When the nanowires, which are made mostly out of proteins (much like our hair), linked up across two electrodes and closed the circuit, they created a flow of measurable current. Cutting the nanowires stopped the current flow.
"This is the first measurement of electron transport along biological nanowires produced by bacteria," said Mohamed El-Naggar, a biophysicist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.