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Gene Drendel Graduate Researcher, Physiology Anatomy & Microbiology

My work is investigating the interactions between microbial communities within the soil and plants, in the context of plant microbial fuel cells.

Microbial Fuel Cells utilise electricigiens and electrotrophs for the production and consumption of electrical current in a microbial fuel cell to generate power. Electricigens are microorganisms able to utilize external insoluble electron acceptors, such as electrodes, as a final electron acceptor during respiration. In a microbial fuel cell they catalyse the oxidation of organic compounds utilising an anode as an electron acceptor. Electrotrophs are microorganisms that associate with the cathode of microbial fuel cells, which they utilise as an electron donor. Microbial fuel cells and the microorganisms associated with them have been investigated for their potential applications in the production of electricity and biofuels, as well as bioremediation of wastewater and the environment.

Plants have also been integrated into microbial fuel cells creating photosynthetic microbial fuel cells. In these systems, organic compounds originating from the plants such as root exudates can be utilized by electricigens and contribute to the power output of the microbial fuel cell. In effect creating a biological conversion of solar energy into electricity. Likewise, microorganisms can promote the growth of plants. Microorganisms that promote plant growth have been under investigation for some time, however it remains relatively unknown whether electricigens can influence the growth of plants. Furthermore, the root exudates of plants are known to influence microbial communities, however it is unknown if this influence may enrich the presence of electricigens.

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