MIT EECS - Qualcomm Undergraduate Research and Innovation Scholar
BioBatts: Intercepting Bacterial Respiration to Convert Sugar Efficiently to Electricity
Timothy K. Lu
Aerobic respiration is a highly efficient energy conversion process. Efforts to utilize respiration to generate electricity encounter three primary difficulties: high bacterial energy demand, tight metabolic control, and low membrane conductivity. We propose a design for this application, wherein we engineer bacteria to retain only essential functions, possess synthetic control circuits to stably maintain low ATP levels, and regulate the rates of glycolysis and gluconeogenesis to provide maximal current. These bacteria will process increased levels of glucose and use the resulting energy to reduce Iron (III) ions. These ions will serve as the continually renewable anode in a voltaic battery.
I have worked with Professor Lu on this project for 5 months now, reducing bacterial function and designing control circuits. I have worked at MIT, Caltech, and Harvard Medical School on Systems and Synthetic Biology and Computational Biology and Neuroscience. My skill set includes experimental and computational biology, statistical physics, combinatorics and generating functions, and machine learning techniques.