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Electromicrobiology.

ABSTRACT

Electromicrobiology deals with the interactions between microorganisms and electronic devices and with the novel electrical properties of microorganisms. A diversity of microorganisms can donate electrons to, or accept electrons from, electrodes without the addition of artificial electron shuttles. However, the mechanisms for microbe-electrode electron exchange have been seriously studied in only a few microorganisms. Shewanella oneidensis interacts with electrodes primarily via flavins that function as soluble electron shuttles. Geobacter sulfurreducens makes direct electrical contacts with electrodes via outer-surface, c-type cytochromes. G. sulfurreducens is also capable of long-range electron transport along pili, known as microbial nanowires, that have metallic-like conductivity similar to that previously described in synthetic conducting polymers. Pili networks confer conductivity to G. sulfurreducens biofilms, which function as a conducting polymer, with supercapacitor and transistor functionalities. Conductive microorganisms and/or their nanowires have a number of potential practical applications, but additional basic research will be necessary for rational optimization.