Living Bioelectrochemical Composites

TitleLiving Bioelectrochemical Composites
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsMcCuskey SR, Su Y, Leifert D, Moreland AS, Bazan GC
JournalAdvanced Materials
Keywordsbioelectrochemical systems, biofilm formation, conductive polymers, exoelectrogen, living materials

Abstract Composites, in which two or more material elements are combined to provide properties unattainable by single components, have a historical record dating to ancient times. Few include a living microbial community as a key design element. A logical basis for enabling bioelectronic composites stems from the phenomenon that certain microorganisms transfer electrons to external surfaces, such as an electrode. A bioelectronic composite that allows cells to be addressed beyond the confines of an electrode surface can impact bioelectrochemical technologies, including microbial fuel cells for power production and bioelectrosynthesis platforms where microbes produce desired chemicals. It is shown that the conjugated polyelectrolyte CPE-K functions as a conductive matrix to electronically connect a three-dimensional network of Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 to a gold electrode, thereby increasing biocurrent ≈150-fold over control biofilms. These biocomposites spontaneously assemble from solution into an intricate arrangement of cells within a conductive polymer matrix. While increased biocurrent is due to more cells in communication with the electrode, the current extracted per cell is also enhanced, indicating efficient long-range electron transport. Further, the biocomposites show almost an order-of-magnitude lower charge transfer resistance than CPE-K alone, supporting the idea that the electroactive bacteria and the conjugated polyelectrolyte work synergistically toward an effective bioelectronic composite.