Bacteria may seem like simple life forms, but they continue to amaze scientists with their amazing abilities. It was discovered that the bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens had a shield from a metal just like Iron Man around it against toxic cobalt poisoning.
Bacteria in the Geobacter lineage have some useful properties. By inhaling rust, it can produce conducting nanowitels and even generate electricity. In other words, these bacteria can be quite useful in producing microbial fuel cells.
Scientists from Michigan State University have discovered a new ability of the bacterium. It seems that I’m not going to be the only one Geobacter sulfurreducens are capable of protecting themselves from cobalt, which is toxic to many organisms. Bacteria take the cobalt mine in the cake, knitting it into its outer membranes like a shield, preventing cobalt from entering.
“They’re creating cobalt nanoparticles on their surfaces. So they protect themselves by making a metal shield. It’s like Iron Man wearing his shield,” says Gemma Reguera, lead author of the study.
Researchers exposed Geobacteri to a high amount of cobalt to show this ability of the bacterium. In the recorded microscope images, it became clear that bacteria continued to live, forming a layer of metal.
The team believes that thanks to this newfound ability of the bacterium, cobalt can be separated from recycled lithium-ion batteries. Researchers are investigating whether geobacteria can decompose other toxic metals, such as cadmium.
The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.