7 ways microbes may solve our energy woes

Microscopic organisms — archaea, bacteria and fungi — have the potential to reshape the world’s power supply. Microbes could provide a vast energy resource that is as efficient and portable as coal, oil and natural gas, said Bruce Rittmann, director of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute.

Some microbial processes, such as using yeast to turn plant sugars into ethanol, already account for a few percent of the energy mix, noted Arnold Demain, a microbial biologist at Drew University in Madison, N.J. Other processes, such as using bacteria to derive electricity from fuel cells, are still in the research and development stage but show potential for deployment a few years down the road.