Growth of non-phototrophic microorganisms using solar energy through mineral photocatalysis

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Growth of non-phototrophic microorganisms using solar energy through mineral photocatalysis

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Abstract

Phototrophy and chemotrophy are two dominant modes of microbial metabolism. To date, non-phototrophic microorganisms have been excluded from the solar light-centered phototrophic metabolism. Here we report a pathway that demonstrates a role of light in non-phototrophic microbial activity. In lab simulations, visible light-excited photoelectrons from metal oxide, metal sulfide, and iron oxide stimulated the growth of chemoautotrophic and heterotrophic bacteria. The measured bacterial growth was dependent on light wavelength and intensity, and the growth pattern matched the light absorption spectra of the minerals. The photon-to-biomass conversion efficiency was in the range of 0.13-1.9‰. Similar observations were obtained in a natural soil sample containing both bacteria and semiconducting minerals. Results from this study provide evidence for a newly identified, but possibly long-existing pathway, in which the metabolisms and growth of non-phototrophic bacteria can be stimulated by solar light through photocatalysis of semiconducting minerals.
Nature Communications 3 article 768 (2012)
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Authors

Anhuai Lu, Yan Li, Song Jin, Xin Wang, Xiao-Lei Wu, Cuiping Zeng, Yan Li, Hongrui Ding, Ruixia Hao, Ming Lv, Changqiu Wang, Yueqin Tang & Hailiang Dong