Metal-eating bacteria

  Jared Leadbetter, professor of environmental microbiology at the California Institute of Technology, discovered a bacteria that feeds on manganese metal. He said: “The wonderful thing about microorganisms in nature is that they can metabolize seemingly impossible substances, such as metals, and use them to obtain energy.” Although people predicted the existence of such microorganisms more than a century ago, This is the first time it has been discovered by humans.
  Lidbetter discovered this bacterium by accident while conducting unrelated experiments. His experiment used a lightweight, powdered manganese. Before leaving school for work, he soaked a glass jar containing manganese in a sink full of tap water in his office. When he returned a few months later, a black substance appeared on the jar. “What is that?” He explained: “I doubt that some kind of microorganism is responsible for this situation, so we conducted a systematic test to find out the cause.” The
  study found that the black coating was actually newly discovered. The manganese oxide produced by bacteria is likely to come from the tap water itself. He said: “There is evidence that this organism lives in groundwater, and part of the drinking water in Pasadena (where the California Institute of Technology is located) comes from groundwater.”
  Manganese is the most abundant element on the earth’s surface. Manganese oxides are dark lumps and are common in nature-they can be found in underground sediments and can also be formed in water distribution systems. This discovery helps researchers better understand the geochemistry of groundwater. As we all know, bacteria can degrade pollutants in groundwater. This process is called bioremediation. When doing so, several key organisms will “reduce” manganese oxide, and scientists have always wondered where manganese oxide comes from. In addition, the results of the study may also help understand the manganese nodules scattered on the seafloor. Manganese nodules are round metal spheres that can be as large as a grapefruit. They were known to marine researchers as early as the voyage of the HMS Challenger in the 1870s. Since then, people have found such nodules spread across the bottom of many of the earth’s oceans. In recent years, mining companies have been planning to develop and collect these nodules, because people often find rare metals enriched in them. However, humans currently have no idea about the formation of manganese nodules. As for whether similar microorganisms found in fresh water will work, further research is needed.