Nearly “Back to the Future”

Well, I’m back after a nice weeklong vacation in Provincetown. Lots of good stuff to blog about, but something that really caught my eye this morning in the Boston Globe was the report about fuel cells that use bacteria to generate electricity directly from sugar. The old-fashioned way to do this was to ferment the sugar with yeast, distill the resulting ethanol, then burn that to generate electricity. But now we can cut out the middle man, thanks to Rhodoferax ferrireducens. Here’s the Globe article that explains the dang deal:
New fuel cell uses germs to generate electricity. The article ends with this fun quote:

“There is a scene in `Back to the Future’ where they throw a banana in the car and off it goes,” said Lovley. “We are not at that stage yet, but this is a big step from what these fuel cells were able to do before.”

I’ve often thought of that very scene when contemplating the future of power generation. And verily that day might come.

The Globe article is pretty good, but it will disappear from view soon. Here’s an article from GNN about the same thing. This one includes a nice snapshot of the bacterium in action. Pretty soon you’ll be intentionally spilling Coke on your laptop in order to recharge it. How do you suppose Word behaves on a sugar high?