These 380-micrometer gears are being turned by hundreds of common bacteria swimming in a liquid solution. Scientists think this discovery could signpost a path to the development of "smart materials" that close the gap between man-made and organic matter.

A collaborative effort between scientists at Northwestern University and the United States Department of Energy discovered that common bacteria can power simple machines like the one seen above. Stimulated by oxygen, the swimming bacteria are able to push gears that are millions of times their size.

Igor Aronson, a lead scientist on the project, envisions a future in which these types of bacteria-powered micromachines make up a material that could "dynamically alter its microstructures, repair damage, or power microdevices." Presumably they won't quit their day jobs of decomposing stuff and making us sneeze. [PRWeb]