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Future

Bright Idea? French Scientists Turn To Bacteria To Power Batteries

A laboratory in Rennes is developing ‘bio-batteries,’ fuel cells that use bacteria rather than expensive metals to generate electricity.

Batteries get their juice from different sources (shatt0r)
Batteries get their juice from different sources (shatt0r)
Cyrille Vanlerberghe

RENNES -- In the corner of his lab at the University of Rennes 1, Frederic Barrière demonstrates a battery powered by the symbiosis of small plants and bacteria. A small light-emitting diode connecting to the two poles of the device illuminates, proving that the system produces an electric current.

Barrière, a chemistry researcher with France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), explains that the battery functions very simply, producing a modest amount of electricity by utilizing living microorganisms. The technique isn't powerful enough to run something like an electric car, but it still has exciting potential. The system is currently undergoing trials, for example, in sewage treatment plants to not only clean the water but also produce electricity.

The microbiological battery, which Barrière developed alongside a young doctorate student, is an impressive variation on a device that's already been around for more than a century: fuel cells.

"Classic" fuel cell batteries operate with electrodes that are immersed in hydrogen and oxygen. They rely on expensive catalysts, like platinum, to initiate chemical reactions on the electrodes' surfaces. Barrière's "organic" version uses live material – bacteria – as the catalyst. Unlike platinum, bacteria are abundant – and cheap.

Instead of breathing oxygen into the air, the microorganisms breathe the metal of the electrode, which in turn circulates electrons in the battery and produces the electric current. Impressively, the bacteria – when placed in their optimal, oxygen-free environment – instinctively attach themselves to the appropriate electrode.

Strange brew

To catalyze electricity production, the only thing necessary is to feed a thin layer of the bacteria. This "fuel" can be a mix of organic compounds commonly found in waste products. A pilot plant in Australia is even operating with the liquid effluent of a brewery.

Such a system could be of great benefit in waste treatment plants, which tend to be large electricity consumers. In efforts to make this bio-battery even more efficient and ecological, it may be possible in the future to apply the system to the roots of photosynthetic plants, which capture the carbon dioxide omitted by the bacteria while also providing the carbohydrates the bacteria feed on.

Read the original article in French

Photo - shatt0r

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Geopolitics

Women, Life, Freedom: Iranian Protesters Find Their Voice

In the aftermath of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the morality police mid-September for not wearing her hijab properly, many Iranians have taken the streets in nationwide protests. Independent Egyptian media Mada Masr spoke to one of the protesters.

Students of Amirkabir University in Tehran protest against the Islamic Republic in September 2022.

Lina Attalah

On September 16, protests erupted across Iran when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody after being arrested and beaten by morality police for her supposedly unsuitable attire. The protests, witnesses recount, have touched on all aspects of rights in Iran, civil, political, personal, social and economic.

Mada Masr spoke to a protester who was in the prime of her youth during the 2009 Green Movement protests. Speaking on condition of anonymity due to possible security retaliation, she walked us through what she has seen over the past week in the heart of Tehran, and how she sees the legacy of resistance street politics in Iran across history.

MADA MASR: Describe to us what you are seeing these days on the streets of Tehran.

ANONYMOUS PROTESTER: People like me, we are emotional because we remember 2009. The location of the protests is the same: Keshavarz Boulevard in the middle of Tehran. The last time Tehranis took to these streets was in 2009, one of the last protests of the Green Movement. Since then, the center of Tehran hasn’t seen any mass protests, and most of these streets have changed, with new urban planning meant to make them more controllable.

Remembering 2009 triggers many things, such as street strategies, tactics and the way we could find each other in the middle of the chaos. But this is us now, almost at the back. Up front, there are many younger people, especially girls. They are extremely brave, fearless and smart.

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