As they feed on chemicals rising from the seafloor, they create electrical currents that flow through the walls of the chimney-like structures they inhabit, researchers said.
"The amount of power produced by these microbes is rather modest," Harvard biologist and engineer Peter Girguis, told ScienceNews.org. "But you could technically produce power in perpetuity."
Girguis presented his findings at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, explaining how he and his colleagues discovered the current with an electrode inserted in the side of an underwater chimney 7,200 feet below the ocean surface at the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the Pacific Northwest coast.
It could be possible to tap this power to run seafloor scientific sensors, he said.