Derek Lovley and Daniel Bond, of the University of Massachusetts, have made a battery from microbe-rich sediment from the ocean floor, producing a new environmentally friendly and potentially inexhaustible source of power?mud. Enough ?mud power? was obtained in the experiment to operate a pocket calculator.

The microbes responsible for the mud power are called Geobacteraceae. They oxidize the organic matter in mud to gain energy, producing excess electrons which can be used to make electrical current.

The researchers used fish tanks filled with saltwater to make the mud batteries. Graphite wires were placed into oxygen-deficient sediment collected from the sea floor and then put into the tanks. These acted as the cathode, or negative pole, of the battery. Other wires suspended above in the oxygen-containing water acted as the anode, or positive pole.

After several weeks, large numbers of microbes were growing around the mud-implanted wires. Electrons produced by the microbes flowed between the wires, repelled from the cathode and attracted to the anode, and created an electric current.

Not only could ocean mud provide a virtually limitless fuel supply, but the system could also be used to clear up pollution. Many pollutants consist of the kind of organic waste on which the microbes which deliver the power thrive.

Now it?s necessary to find a way to improve the system?s efficiency. Otherwise, fields of electrodes will be needed in produce small amounts of electricity.

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