It is important to tailor biotic–abiotic interfaces in order to maximize the utility of bioelectronic devices such as microbial fuel cells (MFCs), electrochemical sensors and bioelectrosynthetic systems. The efficiency of electron-equivalent extraction (or injection) across such biotic–abiotic interfaces is dependent on the choice of the microbe and the conductive electrode material. In this contribution, we show that spontaneous intercalation of a conjugated oligoelectrolyte, namely 4,4′-bis(4′-(N,N-bis(6′′-(N,N,N-trimethylammonium)hexyl)amino)-styryl)stilbene tetraiodide (DSSN+), into the membranes of Escherichia coli leads to an increase in current generation in MFCs containing carbon-based electrodes. A combination of scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and confocal microscopy was employed to confirm the incorporation of DSSN+ into the cell membrane and biofilm formation atop carbon felt electrodes. Current collection was enhanced by more than 300% with addition of this conjugated oligoelectrolyte. The effect of DSSN+ concentration on electrical output was also investigated. Higher concentrations, up to 25 μM, lead to an overall increase in the number of charge equivalents transferred to the charge-collecting electrode, providing evidence in support of the central role of the synthetic system in improving device performance.
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