INNOVATION: Bacteria-Based Thermoelectric Paper.

A researcher from ICMAB-CSIC holds a sample of the new thermoelectric cellulose produced by bacteria. (Credit: ICMAB)

Thermoelectricity is an impressive two-way process that consists of the conversion of temperature differences to electric voltage and vice versa. As such, scientists have been working for years on finding ideal thermoelectric solutions and materials, according to an article on

Now, researchers at the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC) have developed a new concept of thermoelectric material that is both sustainable and recyclable. The novel device is rather simple but highly effective, and it makes use of easily accessible bacteria.

"Instead of making a material for energy, we cultivate it" explained Mariano Campoy-Quiles, a researcher of this study.

"Bacteria, dispersed in an aqueous culture medium containing sugar and carbon nanotubes, produce the nanocellulose fibers that end up forming the device, in which the carbon nanotubes are embedded."

In essence, the newly-developed device is composed of cellulose that is produced locally in the laboratory by bacteria. It also features some conductive nanomaterial called carbon nanotubes. The result is nothing short of impressive.

"We obtain a mechanically resistant, flexible and deformable material, thanks to the cellulose fibers, and with a high electrical conductivity, thanks to the carbon nanotubes," explained further Anna Laromaine, researcher of this study.