Billions of years ago, bacteria evolved metabolic strategies to capture the energy released during oxidation and reduction of metals and minerals, changing the chemistry of their planet.
We study bacteria that build conductive pathways that span cell membranes, allowing life to gain energy from rocks, rusts, and nearby organisms. This electron movement alters the toxicity of metals, provides a route for bioremediation of underground contaminants, and shunts electrons to methane production. These organisms represent a direct electrical connection between cells and the biosphere, allowing microbial electron flow to power new kinds of bioenergy strategies and bioelectronic devices.
In our lab at the University of Minnesota, scientists from around the world invent the tools that explore this interface of microbiology and electricity. We study the molecular basis for this metabolism, develop devices to harness microbes for energy capture, and explore how the bioelectrical interface can be used to process digital information.