Prof to continue fuel cell research

Unlike some parents of small children, Daniel Bond actually likes bacteria.

Or rather, he studies it and uses it to generate electricity.

The University of Massachusetts-Amherst post-doctoral fellow’s research – a collaborative effort with his Amherst colleagues – uses electrodes to capture energy generated by a type of bacteria typically found on the ocean floor, Bond said.

In mid-May, Bond will move his lab to the University’s BioTechnology Institute and the microbiology department, where he will be an assistant professor and continue this research, which is geared toward powering a type of fuel cell.

Bond will continue to work on the bacteria fuel cell, among other projects at the University.

The idea of using bacteria to generate electricity is a relatively old one, with patents dating back to the 1960s, Bond said.

But he and his colleagues approached the idea in a new way.

“No one had ever thought that the bacteria could essentially produce electricity all by themselves,” Bond said. “It was always thought you’d have to help them.”

The power Bond and his colleagues harness from the bacteria lights a light bulb or other small devices, said microbiology professor Michael Sadowsky, a committee member who helped hire Bond.

“We are never going to make cars go,” Bond said. “I think we have a long ways to go with just plain design.”

Bond and his colleagues’ research made him an appealing candidate, said Kenneth Valentas, BioTechnology Institute director.

“His work in microbial physiology is really cutting-edge,” Valentas said.

Bond’s background in animal science and nutrition, along with his current fields, gives him broad experience that will contribute well to the University, Valentas said.

“That’s important to us as an institute because we foster (interdepartmental research) Ö so he seemed to fit,” Valentas said.

The University’s Midwest location, with its possibility for agricultural byproducts, makes a good fit for Bond, too.

“That’s going to be one of the centers of microbial engineering,” Bond said.

Bond will begin setting up his lab when he arrives and will teach his first class next spring. Undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students will get a chance to work with Bond, Sadowsky said.

As for a simplified take on his work, Bond said, “We really focus on these organisms. And trying to do useful things with them, in particular.”