This Superfluid Is Alive, And It Could Power Machines of the Future

This Superfluid Is Alive, And It Could Power Machines of the Future


Bacteria are everywhere, and they’re incredibly
versatile. They can get us sick, they’re essential
good guys in our digestive system…and they almost defy the laws of physics to create
a fluid that basically could power a perpetual motion machine?? I didn’t see that coming. Ok, some vocab here. For fluids, friction is expressed as viscosity:
the less friction in a fluid, the lower its viscosity. Superfluids are materials that seem to not
be bound by the power of friction. They have ‘frictionless flow’ and therefore
zero viscosity, which means they aren’t stopped or slowed down by their own internal
motion, and so don’t lose momentum when moving–give it one first push, and then you’re
good. It’ll just keep going. For the most part, this property has only
been observed in liquid helium when it’s at close to absolute zero, and its behavior
is due to some funky quantum stuff. But scientists have now observed this phenomenon
in water. I mean can you imagine what could we do with
water that moves on its own?? Now, I bet you saw this coming–it’s not
just any old water. It’s water filled with E. coli. If that makes you squirm a little, trust me–I
get it. Usually when we hear the name of that bacteria
it’s in the context of a nasty outbreak of a disease we’re hoping not to catch,
but there’s a lot more to this little creature that the bad rap it catches in the press. See, usually when you add little bits of things
to water, pieces of dirt, clumps of sand, other ‘particulate matter’–the motion
of the water slows down. That’s because the surfaces of the particulate
are exerting extra friction on each other and on the water, giving the fluid a higher
viscosity, meaning it takes more energy to keep the whole thing swirling around. You’d think that adding organisms would
do the same, but that’s where you’d be wrong, my friend. Bacteria are full of surprises, and not always
bad ones. If you put E. coli in water, they swim. They all swim in their own directions with
no real organized movement, they don’t usually have their act together. But if there are enough of them, the ripples
caused by each of their little bodies’ movement starts affecting the other bacteria’s directions. Their motion starts to be more collective,
and when around 10-20% of your water is filled with bacteria, they start to form tiny swirling
currents. But at this point their direction and movement
are still pretty random, they don’t radically change the behavior of the water. But then when you add a force–say, you put
some of this bacteria-filled water between two microscope slides–the motion gets organized. The shearing force of the glass slide makes
all the bacteria align their collective movement in a particular direction because they have
these irregularly shaped, oblong bodies. This pushes on the water in a way that makes
that water exhibit superfluid properties. Zero viscosity. Those little guys could just keep rollin’
and rollin’ and no one can stop them! (*mutters to self* ok Maren tone it down,
no one can know you want bacteria to take over the world)
The experts are still a little unclear on the nitty-gritty physics specifics of exactly
how the bacteria’s motion does this. But the effect is real. The recently published experimental data is
supported by previous theoretical work, and has some crazy real-life implications. Because the motion of a superfluid is frictionless
and therefore only needs to be set into motion once, there is a potential for it to be used
as a ‘fuel’. You could set your super-water in motion–which
would take some initial energy investment–and then you watch its motion power a motor or
a turbine…essentially forever. (I say essentially because the solid moving
parts of the motor itself would probably be slowed down by friction, so you’d need to
give it a nudge every now and then.) Plus, when we’re talking about a hypothetical
motor, at this point we’re talking pretty small and not necessarily that fast. Scaling this operation up in any way is going
to require a lot more work. And then there’s the whole problem of the
fact that the bacteria are living organisms, so you have to feed them. You gotta fuel the fuel, so to speak. And they’re kinda picky–you really have
to get their care and feeding right for them to work properly, so that’s an issue that
needs to be reckoned with. There’s lots more work to be done in uncovering
the details of just how this does what it does, but superfluids powered by bacteria
are exciting. And not just for their potential as a ‘fuel’,
but also because their superfluid characteristics could allow them to move into spaces on their
own without having to be forced or injected, meaning they could help do things like clear
up spilled pollutants. But for now, we’re just inching toward that
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dot com. For more on the surprising ways E. coli can
generate energy for humans, check out my other video here on bacteria-powered solar cells,
and make sure you subscribe for all things microbes. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “This Superfluid Is Alive, And It Could Power Machines of the Future

  1. How would this be any different from sticking a bunch of goldfish head first into a tube? I kid, but I'm not convinced this could be useful either.

  2. On the path of midichlorians 😉 And a special thought for Rand and Robin Miller, who imagined water engineering using bacteria in their historical best seller game "Riven" !! But E. Coeli is definitely a strange being, as you find it in an increasing number of 'exotic' scientific papers… Fred Hoyle detects it inside interstellar medium, while exobiologists claim it has a special 'hypergravity' gene…

  3. so basically its just a animal moving along water in a direction, wont they die in a few weeks or days unless fed? wouldn't it defeat the purpose of the whole perpetual motion thing?

  4. "essentially forever" NO, essentially until the bacteria have no energy left inside them. the energy needed to turn the water into such a weird state comes from them, this is not a perpetuum-mobile, but basically just a mechanism inside the water that relies on nutricion.

  5. All these cool new things and people Nd kids these days just want to be the funniest or most liked jesus christ you all are bing dumbed down

  6. Hai guize what's going in here? Did you know Mobilegamer is a power bottom who lies about being in Mensa and loves huge black hawks in his mouth? COMMENT FILTER OWNEDD

  7. Okay, I get that this is such a massive nitpick but that cartoon of the E. coli should have peritrichous flagella not lophotrichous flagella. 😛

  8. If you want a perpetual power source all you gotta do is:
    1: get some water
    2: fill said water with bacteria
    3: insert 1 bacteriophage into said water
    4: use the motion created from bacteriophage reproducing
    5: tada! perpetual power source (requires refueling of bacteria every now & then tho, or keep in a bacteria-rich environment)

  9. Does it have to be E.coli though? It's got to be a different bacteria with a shape close enough to E.Coli that can be use.

  10. You know…? Using E-Coli to make a super fluid is a bad idea. Try sound waves or something not so obnoxious.

  11. Ya no perpetual motion machines defy the laws of physics so basics this is the perfect lubricant that requires fuel to work although their maybe applications in the future

  12. Professional hostess, most impressed by her ability to magically straighten her hair for the Brilliant commercial. The power of science compels you

  13. It's just me that remember from that episode of Rick & Morty with the microverse battery that powers up his energy… Where is the rights of bacterias? Ahhahaa

  14. A lot of what she's presenting is definitely true and backed up scientifically HOWEVER @Seeker has a bad habit of blowing things out of proportion to generate hype for their channel. Especially the bit about this becoming potential fuel for a perpetual motion machine. If it needs "fuel" (it's not superfluid, it's water with bacteria that needs to be FED to show characteristics of superfluidity)… Then it's not perpetual motion.

  15. Yes my queen, e.coli is another wae to find da wae! You must have either e.bola or e.coli to find da wae!

  16. E Coli is weird af, I just read today that they made solar cells with e coli & those things have unprecedentedly high outputs. Who'd have thunk

  17. https://pacificsoutheast.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/unhealthy-hype-and-media-misrepresentation-the-science-needs-to-be-right/

  18. How do I block channels like Seeker from coming up on search results? Here, watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8VyUsVOic0

  19. ok so you add few of cool words from here and there and come to conclusion that water BECOMES "super fluid" ,insted of saying that the organised motion of those bacteria which causes water to flow in certain direction.

  20. Maren sounds/looks more like Supergirl than Melissa Benoist :). About that superfluid, it could be the solution to the solar energy problem (storing at days to give back at night without too much loss)

  21. I don't know where you studied your physics, but I can tell you where your "fluid" is getting its energy: You have to FEED the e-coli. I want you to think about that for a second and realize, it IS as bad as it sounds. Please keep your junk science to yourself please, at least until you understand what it is that you're talking about.

  22. sorry to break it to you honey BACTERIA DO RULE THE WORLD ! i thought you where sposed to be clever sheeesh youre suposed to be sexy and smart youre now demoted to just sexy lol

  23. Oh so it's a perpetual motion system that requires a consistent dose of energy in the form of food? Got it. Totally perpetual.

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