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Electrified bacteria army kills uranium, gives Captain Planet a run for his money

Lydia Leavitt, @lydialeavitt
September 8, 2011
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A certain type of "hairy" bacteria may just be the answer to cleaning up radioactive spills. Scientists at the University of Southern California found that under certain circumstances, Geobacter sulfurreducens could make metals like uranium less soluble -- essentially turning the metal into hard droplets rather than being absorbed. Researchers discovered that by lowering the bacteria's temperature, it caused hair-like pili to extend, which enveloped the poison uranium and ultimately reduced it through long-range electron transfer. The breakthrough could help deplete sources of uranium or other radioactive isotopes where bacteria normally can't survive -- like from the Fukushima nuclear plant that devastated Japan earlier this year. Scientists believe they've only scratched the surface with this development and are optimistic about the future of bacteria "electromicrobiology," which we can only guess grew in popularity after this '80s classic hit the airwaves (video after the break).





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