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The power of bacteria

Genetically altered photosynthetic bacteria can convert sunlight into fuel three times as effectively as plants. Image: ‘Clyndrospermum (Cyanobacteria)’ by Matthewjparker is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Genetically altered photosynthetic bacteria can convert sunlight into fuel three times as effectively as plants. Image: ‘Clyndrospermum (Cyanobacteria)’ by Matthewjparker is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Bacteria may be some of the oldest organisms in the evolutionary tree, but, as Horizon discovers this month, they are inspiring new technologies, from turning sunlight into car fuel to creating building blocks that can repair themselves when cracked. We also hear from scientists using these single-celled organisms to heat our homes, and others who are using them to help trees clean up contaminated soil.