The Viridian Design Movement

Key concepts
microbes, bioremediation, Big Mike the Viridian Bug
Attention Conservation Notice:
continues the long-term Viridian obsession with micro-organisms and their applications.

"Where are the Design Intellectuals?" I dunno, but I'd guess they're over on Design Observer, complaining on the Web about our society's lack of granite- chiselled gravitas.
Swell David Pescovitz article on the growing plethora of teensy, portable power sources: microfuelcells, MEMS internal combustion engines... something is bound to tear loose here.

"We are pleased to announce the inaugural issue of PlaNetwork Journal, a quarterly online publication for in-depth articles by those engaged in applying new technology to benefit the public interest."

Elliot Spitzer, ladies and gentlemen; the glory of the American legal system, to the extent that it has any left:

"Spitzer and Colleagues to Take On Global Warming?

"Eight state attorneys general will hold four simultaneous press conferences on Wednesday to unveil a major lawsuit intended to curb the United States? contribution to global warming, according to an announcement today from the office of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The states involved include California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will also appear at one of the press conferences, which are scheduled for noon, Eastern time. No other information about the lawsuit was released."


Tuesday, Jul 20, 2004


KRT photo courtesy University of Massachusetts

"Derek Lovley, a microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts, discovered Geobacter, a class of bacteria. (((Thank you 'Dr. Lovely!')))

'Wonderbug' converts waste into power By Robert S. Boyd
Knight Ridder Newspapers

"WASHINGTON – Geobacter, a class of bacteria, is tiny and yet so talented that it can turn deadly uranium waste into harmless muck, generate electricity from rust and garbage, and even run a toy car. (((Save us, Geobacter! Save us, and run our little toy cars!)))

"It's a lot to expect from an invisible little bug less than a thousandth of an inch long. But the Energy Department, the Pentagon and the National Science Foundation are exploring the potential of Geobacter and related microorganisms to perform useful work.

"'Geobacter gives us a cheap and simple alternative to a cleaner, safer environment and the generation of cleaner forms of energy,' said Derek Lovley, the biologist who discovered the bacteria in 1987 at the muddy bottom of the Potomac River in Washington. (((Where better?))) Lovley heads the Geobacter Project, a team of 50 researchers based at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.


Get a job there!

Quick, double his grants!

"So far, 20 species of the Geobacter genus have been recognized, plus 30 in closely related families. Scientists have identified the genes of several of these species and figured out their inner workings.

"The first big job for the clever little microbes is to help clean up billions of gallons of deadly radioactive uranium waste left over from the Cold War. (((Yum!))) This summer is the third year of an Energy Department test of their abilities at an old uranium waste field at Rifle, Colo.

"In the test, Geobacter acts like a tiny deliveryman, (((oh for heaven's sake, get a grip))) shuttling electrons from atoms in a harmless organic substance, such as vinegar, to a species of highly radioactive uranium known as Uranium-6. Compounds containing Uranium-6 easily dissolve in water, contaminate rivers and underground aquifers, and sicken or kill fish, animals and people.

"The addition of two new electrons reduces an atom of Uranium-6 to a safer version called Uranium-4, a solid material similar to natural uranium ore. It sinks to the bottom of the water, where it can be extracted or left safely in place.


"To improve the bacteria's performance, researchers drilled holes in uranium-contaminated ground and poured vinegar down the holes.

"'It's good food for Geobacter

– simple and inexpensive,' said Lovley. In 24 hours, the number of bacteria doubles. ((("Hey man, my uranium-tainted groundwater tastes like vinegar!")))

"Lovley called this technique 'simpler, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the more commonly used `muck, suck and truck' operations.' This method, in which contaminants are laboriously dug or pumped up and transported elsewhere, would take decades and cost billions of dollars.

If Geobacter passes its tests, the Energy Department must decide whether and where to begin large-scale application.

"Public reaction to widespread use of bacteria, like other genetic experiments, could be hostile. (((Bacteria are not 'genetic experiments.'))) But Lovley contends that Geobacter is harmless. 'They're already in the environment,' he said. 'They've shown no pathogenic (disease-causing) traits. They're everywhere in almost any soil.'"

"Geobacter also can be used to turn toxic petroleum byproducts, such as benzene, into inoffensive carbon dioxide. ((("Inoffensive"?)))

"Geobacter's ability to make electricity from rust is generating interest. (((Yes, one would think so!))) It removes electrons from one type of iron atom, known as Fe-2, and converts it into another form, Fe-3, the basis of ordinary rust. The electrons zip along a wire, from a positive to a negative pole, as in a miniature battery.

"Lovley's lab has exploited this bit of energy to light electric bulbs, operate a calculator and power a toy car. In the future, he predicted, bacteria power (((bacteria power to the bacteria people, baby))) could be used in less developed countries to charge batteries, run radios, televisions or computers, even light a small hut. (((Why is it that people always try to pipe this half-baked stuff to 'less-developed countries'? Appalachia and the South Bronx are 'less developed,' why don't you try it out there?))) You might even be able to use it at home to generate electricity from garbage, he said.

"Although Geobacter generates only tiny amounts of electricity in the laboratory, it works more efficiently than the traditional burning of biomass,' meaning wood, cornstalks, trash and the like.

"Lovley claims his bacteria can recover 80 to 90 percent of the energy potential locked up in iron, compared with an average of 30 percent of the energy stored in biomass by traditional means.

"'We're efficient but slow. We're trying to get efficient but fast,' he joked. (((Run!)))

"The Defense Department also is interested in using the energy in iron-rich mud at the bottom of the sea to power submarine detectors and other sensors." (((The obligatory military app.)))

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