A2: Microbes In The News

Better than nature: Artificial biofilm increases energy production in microbial fuel cells

12 April 2017


Scientists Prof. Dr. Ruth Freitag and Prof. Dr. Andreas Greiner have developed an artificial biofilm that can perform better and is more stable than the natural biofilms that collect in a fuel cell. The scientists felt this was a positive development because unlike natural microbes, they could control their artificial biofilm better. We’ve talked about biofilms in lecture as a convenient way for microbes to collect, grow in population size, and obtain resources without moving. Further, we discussed how microbes choose their environment, like in an oil spill. However, in a situation like the oil spill, we saw that microbes that aggregate naturally were not always the most efficient at taking care of the spill.

I found it interesting that scientists are producing artificial microbes. It made me curious if it would have been a better idea to try and obtain a greater amount of the natural microbes for the job than to make something synthetic. I feel there could be a lot of unforeseen issues that could arise such as, if this new development is safe for the environment. They did not go into great detail and I think they could have done a better job of explaining what this new development entails.

My question goes with my earlier thinking: What possible outcomes (negative or positive) could come from this development?