At the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research scientists genetically modified Geobacter, a common soil bacteria, to produce highly conductive nanowires that may be used for miniature biomedical applications. The bacteria normally produces a conductive filament, but it’s not very good, only letting a small amount of current through.
The research team changed the bacteria so that it produces tryptophan within the wires, a much more conductive material than a couple of amino acids that it replaced. The result were wires that were 2,000 more conductive than what Geobacter produces naturally while being narrower and stronger.
It’s not yet clear what the applications are for such tiny wires, but as microelectronics continues to shrink and flexible bioelectronics become more common, we’ll certainly be seeing where these biowires can be used.