Metal-Breathing Bacteria Could Transform Electronics, Biosensors, and More

Metal-Breathing Bacteria Could Transform Electronics, Biosensors, and More Metal-Breathing Bacteria Could Transform Electronics, Biosensors, and More

June 28, 20211 min read
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When the Shewanella oneidensis bacterium “breathes” in certain metal and sulfur compounds anaerobically, the way an aerobic organism would process oxygen, one of the materials it can produce is molybdenum disulfide, a material that could be used to enhance electronics, electrochemical energy storage, and drug-delivery devices.


Shayla Sawyer, an associate professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering at Rensselaer, has centered much of her research on the unique abilities of this bacterium. Her lab’s exploration in this area could be an important step toward developing a new generation of nutrient sensors that can be deployed on lakes and other water bodies.


Compared with other anaerobic bacteria, one thing that makes Shewanella oneidensis particularly unusual and interesting is that it produces nanowires capable of transferring electrons.


“That lends itself to connecting to electronic devices that have already been made,” Sawyer said. “So, it’s the interface between the living world and the manmade world that is fascinating.”


Sawyer is available to talk about this unique and innovative area of research, and the potential to develop the next generation of electronics and sensors.



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  • Shayla Sawyer
    Shayla Sawyer Associate Professor, Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering

    Focused on engineering processes and potential applications of hybrid inorganic/organic materials for optoelectronic devices and sensors

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