A team of scientists from Oxford University has shown how the natural movement of bacteria could be harnessed to assemble and power microscopic "windfarms."
Using computer simulations, the team demonstrated that the chaotic swarming effect of dense active matter, such as bacteria, can be organized to turn cylindrical rotors and provide a steady power source.
Dense bacterial suspensions are an example of active fluids that flow spontaneously.
When the Oxford team immersed a lattice of 64 symmetric microrotors into the active fluid, the scientists found that the bacteria spontaneously arranged itself in such a way that neighboring rotors began to spin in opposite directions – a simple structural organization reminiscent of a windfarm.
'The amazing thing is that we didn’t have to pre-design microscopic gear-shaped turbines. The rotors just self-assembled into a sort of bacterial windfarm," said Dr. Tyler Shendruk from Oxford University's Department of Physics.
The natural movement of bacteria also supports the creation of human-made micromachines, such as smartphone components.
Also: Read more Energy tech briefs.