Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Potomac Treasure Part 1

PostedFebruary 28, 2020

Lede: More than thirty years ago, a new type of bacteria was discovered in the mud of the Potomac River. Now it could provide a key to producing clean energy.

Randy Atkins: While studying pollution in the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay, Derek Lovley, now a microbiology professor at the University of Massachusetts, found a unique bacteria that lived off of metals…

Derek Lovley: …the same way that we use oxygen.

Randy Atkins: He called it Geobacter and, in studying how they work…

Derek Lovley: …we discovered that they were producing these thin protein filaments that were electrically conductive.

Randy Atkins: Lovley was excited about the prospect of using these so-called nanowires, which can be produced without the toxic materials typically used in manufacturing man-made versions, for powering electronic devices.

Derek Lovley: But I never envisioned the discovery that’s reported this month. None of us did. It was a serendipitous discovery. It’s just…it’s amazing.

Randy Atkins: More on that in my report at this time next week. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.