Trailblazing microbiologist Gemma Reguera introduces us to her favorite microbe, the electricity-producing Geobacter. This unassuming single-celled organism possesses a remarkable ability to generate electricity through a unique form of respiration. Not the breathing kind of respiration; this is a specific chemical process, one which involves the capture of energy from molecules through the transfer of electrons.
The way it works is that Geobacter “oxidize” or remove electrons from molecules like acetate. These electrons travel down little hairs on the Geobacter’s underside called nanowires. As these nanowires make contact with minerals in their external environment, the electrons are transferred to these minerals, causing their “reduction.” This reduction leads to the breakdown of the minerals in the surrounding environment. In this way, Geobacter plays a pivotal role in the intricate web of nutrient cycling, influencing the fabric of the ecosystems they inhabit.
Gemma’s groundbreaking research has opened the doors to a new frontier in scientific exploration: Electromicrobiology, a novel scientific research field that focuses on studying microorganisms that are capable of extracellular electron transfer. Her passion for electric microbes really comes through in this film. Plus, the paper puppets of Geobacter are really fun to watch!