Just add poison: Bacteria outperform plants in efficiency

In summary, the authors discuss the use of "cyborg bacteria" that can produce acetic acid and grow cadmium sulfide on their surface, making them more efficient at converting CO2, water, and light into useful substances compared to photosynthesis in plants. However, there are still concerns about scaling up and the toxicity of cadmium. This concept of using single-celled organisms for biochemical tasks is not new and is already seen in the majority of photosynthetic primary production in the oceans being done by single-celled algae. The 80% efficiency of this conversion is compared to the chemical pathway in plant cells, not the entire plant system.
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The authors call them "cyborg bacteria", but as far as I can see they didn't change the bacteria artificially, they just put them in unusual conditions, including poison.

They used bacteria that get rid of poisonous substances (such as cadmium) by forming crystals out of them. Under the right conditions, they could grow cadmium sulfide on their surface - a semiconductor that collects light and makes the energy available for chemical reactions. The bacteria produce acetic acid, an important substance for the chemical industry, out of CO2, water and light. The efficiency of this conversion is quoted as 80%, to be compared to ~10% for photosynthesis in plants under ideal conditions. The produced substances are different, however, so direct comparisons are not necessarily perfect.

American Chemical Society news
BBC news

The usual caveats apply, of course: It works in the lab, it is unclear if the process can be scaled up and how much an industrial application would cost. Replacing cadmium by a less toxic substance would be nice as well. At least less toxic to humans, as "being toxic to bacteria" is part of the concept.
 
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I'm not sure what you are on about here. The statement that single celled organisms are more efficient at some biochemical task is an old idea. Consider the Bioenergetic model: The amount of biomass overhead (hence sunlight energy) that is directly required for a single cell to grow and survive, is smaller than for multicelluar organisms that have evolved non-photosynthetic tissue. This is why the majority of photosynthetic primary production in the oceans is from single celled algae in phytoplankton.
 
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The 10% is a number for the chemical pathway in plant cells, not for the whole plant system. It is a comparison between two chemical process groups.
 

Related to Just add poison: Bacteria outperform plants in efficiency

1. What is the main finding of the study?

The main finding of the study "Just add poison: Bacteria outperform plants in efficiency" is that certain types of bacteria are more efficient at breaking down organic compounds and producing energy compared to plants.

2. How was the study conducted?

The study was conducted by growing different types of bacteria and plants in controlled environments and measuring their efficiency in breaking down organic compounds and producing energy.

3. What types of bacteria were studied?

The study focused on two types of bacteria: E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These bacteria were chosen due to their common presence in the environment and their ability to break down organic compounds.

4. How do bacteria outperform plants in efficiency?

Bacteria outperform plants in efficiency because they have a higher surface area-to-volume ratio, allowing them to absorb nutrients and break down organic compounds more efficiently. They also have a simpler structure and metabolism, making them more energy-efficient.

5. What are the potential implications of this study?

The findings of this study may have implications for improving waste management and energy production. By harnessing the efficiency of bacteria, we may be able to develop more sustainable and efficient methods of breaking down organic waste and producing energy. It also highlights the importance of understanding and utilizing the unique abilities of different organisms in scientific research and development.

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