The use of bacteria to perform chemical effects has been known for along time. Often they are used in the ore refining industry in a process known as bio-leaching where the bacteria remove all useful metal ions from an ore. Not microbes won’t do this out of the goodness of their souls and so basically have to be tricked into helping themselves and also us at the same time.
It has now been discovered that some bacteria can move electrons into material that is both magnetic and conductive. Researchers from The University of Tübingen in Germany; The University of Manchester in England; and The University of Minnesota and Pacific Northwest both in the United States. Using electron microscopy and the Diamond Light Source particle accelerator in the UK observations showing the ability of these microscopic organism were collected. An interesting quality of these bacteria is that despite only being only a couple of micrometres long they can move electrons over maximum distances of centimetres by manipulating the magnetic quality of the material. There was also two types of bacteria observed. One group which was able to draw off electrons, but only from the surface of the metal, and another which could add electrons both at the surface and into the interior. Effectively they are biological oxidisers and reducers respectively. The ability to add and remove electrons simply by addition of microbes has many different applications in the chemical industry where some reactions require an excess or lack of electrons to be most effective.