METAL SCAVENGER
Magnetospirillum magneticum

This corkscrew-shaped bacterium, and others such “magnetotactic” species, align themselves to Earth’s magnetic field. They tend to live in brackish water, like bogs, or the sediments at the bottom. They prefer very specific oxygen levels: some, but not too much.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
Magnetotactic bacteria collect iron from their environment, and make magnetite nanocrystals in little sacs. They use their cellular skeleton to arrange the crystals in a neat line. The Earth’s magnetic field pulls the magnetic crystals so the bacteria line up pointing north and south.

By waggling its flagellum, Magnetospirillum travels back and forth along the magnetic line, looking for the oxygen to rise or fall until it finds a happy medium. Instead of wandering in three dimensions, it just goes back and forth .

WHY SYNTHESIZE THIS?

Creating organisms that collect and transform metals from the environment will become increasingly important for the production electronics as our naturally found reserves are become depleted.