Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Potomac Treasure Part 2

PostedMarch 6, 2020

Lede: Thirty years ago, a bacteria from the Potomac River was found to produce its own tiny wires that conduct electricity. Just last month, an even more surprising discovery was announced.

Randy Atkins: Microbiologist Derek Lovley shared those nanowires made by his bacteria with a University of Massachusetts colleague, electrical engineer Jun Yao. As a grad student in Yao’s lab played around with the bacterial wires, he noticed an electrical current…even though there wasn’t a power source. They figured out that…

Jun Yao: Essentially, we are creating electricity from the water component in the air.

Randy Atkins: Similar to lightning. The possibilities are mindboggling. Yao says the nanowires could be stacked for amplification, made in any shape, and produce completely clean power anywhere 24-7.

Jun Yao: In principle, we really don’t need any other energy source. That’s how we actually envision the future.

Randy Atkins: Yao imagines uses in electronic wearables, cell phones, and ultimately even in powering your home. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.