In the quest for new energy solutions, scientists are thinking small. They’re looking to Earth’s tiniest living creatures—microbes—to inspire high-tech innovations.

Microbes are some of nature’s most talented chemists. Over billions of years of evolution, they have developed the ability to perform incredible chemical feats, such as harvesting energy from rocks, manipulating light and transforming hard-to-get chemicals into storable, transportable forms.

Scientists at the frontiers of chemistry and biology are tapping into nature’s ancient technologies for new ideas to advance energy, medicine, toxic cleanup and other applications.

This website is based on Research Frontiers in Bioinspired Energy: Molecular-level Learning from Natural Systems, a workshop hosted by the National Academies. The workshop provided a forum for discussing how molecular-level research on natural systems can inform new approaches to energy. The workshop report and this Web site highlight cutting-edge science in this area but do not attempt to present any consensus findings or recommendations.


Video: Nature’s Marvelous Machines

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Zoom in on any cell and you’ll find a bustling hub of activity. Scientists are using blueprints from nature’s molecular-scale machines to create programmable synthetic proteins. Watch this video to find out more.

Video: Microbes, Methane, & Energy

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Dive into the murky depths of the Black Sea to discover microbes performing amazing chemical feats. What might we learn from nature’s tiny chemists? Watch this video to find out.