Subsurface Biogeobatteries: Geophysics meets Microbiology


Tracking subsurface microbial activity can be an important component in developing bioremediation or natural attenuation strategies but often requires costly drilling. New research on the production of electrical current by electrochemically reduced sediments in subsurface contaminant plumes formed as a result of microbial activity coupled to the production of reduced iron and sulfur minerals may provide a cheaper tracking alternative. Although known for some time, a research team led by the Colorado School of Mines developed a theoretical basis for linking the production of current to microbial activity in contaminated environments. The work lays a theoretical basis for “self-potential” (SP) techniques to map areas of microbially-mediated electrical anomalies in subsurface environments. SP can be a practical surface-deployed method to track the extent of microbial activity in subsurface environments.


Revil A, Mendonca, CA, Atekwana, EA, Kulessa B, Hubbard, SS, Bohlen, KJ. “Understanding Biogeobatteries: Where geophysics meets microbiology,” Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, 115:G00G02, doi:10.1029/2009JG001065 (2010).