News Stories

Bacteria Power

In the wake of the oil spill catastrophe, researchers are searching harder than ever for energy alternatives. It turns out that Bacteria can help clean up the spill and it can also play a part in our use of solar energy in the future.

For the first time, researchers have created a way to convert sun light directly into electricity in a CO2-free manner, using a blue-green bacteria called cyanobacteria. There exists a diversity of different species of cyanobacteria bacteria all over the world, from temperate ponds to some of the most inhospitable environments imaginable such as the Sahara desert or Antarctic glaciers. Colonies of cyanobacteria can form filaments, sheets or even hollow balls. On a global scale, the amount of solar energy that is harvested by cyanobacteria exceeds more than 25 times the energy consumed by humans. Cyanobacteria utilize the energy of sun light to drive photosynthesis, a process where the energy of light is used to split water molecules into oxygen, protons and electrons.

Researcher Ilia Baskakov says, "This study expands our knowledge about possible mechanisms for harnessing solar energy. In the future, the newly discovered physiological activity of cyanobacteria could be utilized for generating green electricity in a fully self-sustainable, CO2-free manner in the absence of any additional organic material."

Meanwhile, something called osmotic power has been around for 40 years. It could replace current greenhouse gas spewing fuels and could produce half of Europe's total energy demand by 2030, and it's 3 times stronger than wind or solar power, so why hasn't anyone heard of it?

On the Smartplanet website, Andrew Nusca explains that osmotic power is produced using the difference in salt concentration between salt water and fresh water, with the only byproduct being brackish (salty) water.

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