Argonne National Laboratory, www.anl.gov

Scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill., have discovered they can harness bacteria to turn microgears millions of times more massive than the bacteria themselves. The gears measure about 380 microns in diameter and have relatively long slanted spokes upon which the bacteria push. Although the scientists cannot completely control the bacteria yet, they’ve proved bacteria can turn the gears, and at times a few hundred bacteria work together to turn a gear for a relatively long stretch of time. Scientists have found they can speed the bacteria’s motions by boosting the amount of oxygen in their environment. Conversely, decreasing oxygen slows or stops bacteria movement. Researchers say this is the first step in developing hybrid biomechanical devices driven by microorganisms.