News Release

Hundreds-fold electrochemical measurement output brings data science to reveal microbial electricity generation mechanisms

High-quality electrochemical database may stimulate data-driven research on microbial fuel cells and biodegradable materials

Peer-Reviewed Publication

National Institute for Materials Science, Japan

2D visualization

image: A developed high-throughput electrochemical device enables simultaneous independent electrochemical measurements in the 96-well electrochemical plate with three electrodes printed at the bottom of every well. High-throughput comparison and analysis of different electrochemical conditions among the wells. Results of the evaluation of power generation enhancement efficiency against riboflavin concentrations and electrode potentials in Shewanella spp. using a Gaussian process regression model, showing high performance over a wide range of electrode potentials in the low-concentration region. view more 

Credit: Akihiro Okamoto National Institute for Materials Science

1. NIMS researchers have developed a device capable of taking hundreds of times more electrochemical measurements than conventional devices. By analyzing this device's large amounts of data, the team identified molecular mechanisms that enable electrogenic bacteria to efficiently generate electricity even when subjected to a wide range of electrode potentials. This technique can also be used to analyze materials interacting with microorganisms (e.g., biodegradable plastics), potentially facilitating efforts to discover innovative microbially degradable materials.


2. Some microorganisms are able to generate electricity while purifying waste water. Because this eco-friendly power generation mechanism is influenced by various factors, conventional experimental and theoretical approaches to understanding and controlling have been difficult. Data science—the analysis of massive amounts of data—had been considered a potentially effective approach to this problem. However, it requires large amounts of high-quality elctrochemical data with defined conditions and little variability, making it virtually impossible techniqcally and economically.


3. This research team recently developed an electrochemical measurement system capable of taking hundreds of times more 3-electrode electrochemical measurements than conventional systems. The team then constructed a high-quality database, analyzed the data using data science techniques to determine the relationship between bacterial electricity generation efficiency and the concentration of external factors enhancing bacterial extracellular electron transfer (right-handed heatmap figure). In addition, the team identified the mechanisms by which riboflavin molecules serve as an extracellular electron transporters, enabling electrogenic bacteria to efficiently generate electricity even when subjected to a wide range of electrode potentials.


4. The electrochemical measurement system this team developed was found to be considerably more cost-efficient than conventional systems and exhibited high measurement reproducibility. This is the first research to demonstrate that data science techniques (i.e., analyzing huge amounts of electrochemical measurement data) can be used effectively in microbial electrochemistry research. In addition, because the electric current produced by microorganisms is an indicator of their metabolic activity levels, this system can be used to measure the impact of microorganisms on biomaterials. For example, the rate at which biodegradable plastics disintegrate should be positively correlated with the amount of electric current produced by the microorganisms decomposing them. The system can also be used to measure the electric current produced by the microorganisms associated with various materials. This data could then be analyzed using data science techniques to predict materials with superior physical properties, potentially expediting efforts to discover new, effective materials.




5. This project was led by Miran Waheed (JSPS Postdoctoral Research Fellow (at the time of this research), Electrochemical Nanobiotechnology Group (ENG), International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA), NIMS), Gaku Imamura (Senior Researcher, ENG, MANA, NIMS) and Akihiro Okamoto (Leader of ENG, MANA, NIMS). This work was supported in part by the JST Strategic Basic Research Program PRESTO (grant number: JPMJPR19H1) and the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (grant number: 21he0322002j0002).


6. This research was published in Patterns, an open access journal, on October 19, 2022.

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