A Living Biobattery at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is discovered by Harvard biologist and engineer Peter Girguis. This underwater living biobattery is fueled by microbes that live near hydrothermal vents. As the microbes feed on noxious chemicals rising from the seafloor, they create electrical currents that flow through the walls of the structures they inhabit, similar to the shape of a chimney.

Living Bio-Battery Discovered on Sea Floor“The amount of power produced by these microbes is rather modest, but you could technically produce power in perpetuity,” said Girguis. Girguis hopes to tap this power to run seafloor sensors. The current was measured by implanting an electrode in the side of an underwater chimney 2,200 meters below the surface at the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the Pacific Northwest coast.

The researchers also built an artificial chimney in the laboratory where a tube that mimicked the inside of the chimney was filled with dissolved hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs but is palatable to vent microbes and a second tube, outside of the chimney, contained only seawater.

The scientists grew a film of microbes on a piece of pyrite, a metallic mineral found in natural chimneys, that connected the two tubes. The current the microbes produced in the pyrite increased when they were given more food, suggesting this current is how the microbes make contact with the oxygen in the seawater outside of the chimney. Pyrite seems to shunt electrons created as the microbes break down hydrogen sulfide to these oxygen molecules, which react to form water.