Renewable Energy

Pond Bacterium Converts Light to Energy

WASHINGTON (AP) – The wonderland known as Yellowstone National Park has yielded a new marvel β€” an unusual bacterium that converts light to energy.

The discovery was made in a hot spring at the park where colorful mats of microbes drift in the warmth.

“This thing was just bizarre,” David M. Ward, a professor of microbial studies at Montana State University, said of the bacterium.

Plants use photosynthesis to turn light into energy, of course, and so do some other bacteria.

But, Ward said, the newly discovered type has “a new kind of photosynthesis. It uses the same kind of machinery, but has the parts in a different arrangement.”

The find is going to be important for unraveling the history of photosynthesis, in determining how microbes efficiently harvest energy, he said in a telephone interview.

“We’re running out of fossil fuel, so the more efficiently we can harvest light energy the better,” Ward said.

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