Microscopic or more complex, what do I need to keep in mind to create a species that eats electricity. Like it touches an electronic equipment or battery or cables and sucks in their charge or stored energy or shorts them, thus rendering electronic equipments useless and feeding itself.

I know there are microbes who "eat" electricity but maybe in a different way. So how can that be extrapolated to a species scale and suit "eating" definition keeping also in mind that it risks to run out of its feed, i.e., electricity if it keeps eating it.

If my understanding of electricity is incorrect when I think on the lines that charge or flowing or stored current or energy can be transferred, please let me know or guide me to research.

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    $\begingroup$ In North America, a single circuit in the average home can deliver 15 A at 120 V or about 1800 watts continuously. Unless the creature is more than 95% efficient at converting electricity to something else, it will cook itself as soon as it touches a common electric socket. $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2021 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ @grumpyYoungMan , what if I makes the species a swarm of bees or microbes? It might not eat the whole 100%, may be just enough to feed itself.. but that interference or attack might spoil the equipment or grid or network for use by other species. So what to do to create that species? $\endgroup$
    – mukul215
    Jul 8, 2021 at 4:19
  • $\begingroup$ Like a solar flare. ( It is the wrong comparison i know). But it renders the grid unusable. The difference between a flare and this species would be that the latter gets something out if it too. $\endgroup$
    – mukul215
    Jul 8, 2021 at 4:20
  • $\begingroup$ @mukul215 for the species to render the equipment useless, it needs to overload the circuits by drawing more power than the circuit can handle, blowing fuses and tripping breakers, possibly in a feeding frenzy if they're a swarm. An average human body uses a grand total of 110 watts per day for reference $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2021 at 6:34
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    $\begingroup$ @JulianaKarasawaSouza: 100 W is the power consumption of a human at rest doing nothing. 200 to 250 W is a more reasonable power consumption when working, or walking briskly or carrying stuff around. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 8, 2021 at 8:43

2 Answers 2


Animals that consume food get two things from it: energy, via chemical reactions with oxygen from air, and materials to build and repair their bodies. The actual process is a lot more complicated, but that's the high-level version.

A creature that gets its energy from electricity cannot get matter that way. It still needs to "eat" to get materials for growth and self-repair. Plants get their energy from sunlight, but also need water, air and other nutrients that usually come from soil.

  • $\begingroup$ You get some mass, just not much: m=E/(c*c) $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2021 at 9:21
  • $\begingroup$ What about bike bacteria or that sort of stuff? How to extrapolate it? Any pointers? $\endgroup$
    – mukul215
    Jul 12, 2021 at 17:03

Like John Dallman pointed out, living beings need to get both energy and matter from their food. That is true for any living being, including bacteria and the such. They don't need it to come from a single source, but they need both.

Said energy needs to be in a form that they can process, usually chemical energy from molecules like glucose that can go through some chemical reactions to be converted into another molecule that can be used in many different metabolic processes (think ATP).

The matter portion is where they gain the base components of their bodies and can be used for all sorts of things, like structural uses (calcium being used on bones, hard chitin on insect's exoskeletons), substrates for chemical reactions (sugars like glucose for generating the energy, amino acids used to synthesize proteins which are then used in a sorts of ways), catalysts (things like vitamins and some ions), etc.

If you want it to make sense scientifically, you need to decide a source of matter for them (or just give an explanation that makes sense for your world in case they have things that are beyond science, like some kind of magic system).

Since you seem to intend for them to damage electronics, I would suggest you make them their source of matter. Something like a being that digests electronic components and uses them in their body. Maybe that is why they even use electricity on the first place. Maybe their main source of chemical energy isn't some oxidization of sugars in several steps (like most living beings), but instead electrolytic reactions (reactions that use an electrical current to occur).

Electrolytic reactions can be used to extract metals from ores, so I don't think it is that much of a stretch that some fictional creature could use electric currents on electronics and power lines as the energy they need to make a electrolytic reaction that converts portions of the metal in the cables or electronics into a form that they can absorb (it would be way more complicated than that, but as a concept I think it can pass). Something like that would also damage the electronic a lot too.

If you go with that, the creature would probably need a lot of metal to survive (as to justify said method of getting food), so maybe it uses that metal structurally (like metal bones or exoskeleton, although at this point they would start looking more like robots)? Metallic ions are good catalysts so that is an option, but catalysts are consumed in small quantities, so the creature wouldn't need much of them. Also, unless they are made only of materials found in electronics, they would likely need another source of matter for the other components in their bodies, even if said source is only needed in small amounts.

As for characteristics that they would need to manipulate the electricity with their bodies, I think they would need physiological structures for both conducting it really well (think materials with low resistance like metals) and conduct it really poorly (hydrocarbons are good at that, but the creature would need a way to get them) so it can control how the current flows through it, directing it to where it needs to go and avoiding it from going where it shouldn't.

Now, if my memory serves me right, electricity always will "prefer" to flow through the material of least resistance (they are inversely proportional), so a way of making anything electronic on that circuit useless while the creature eats could be by it having a material on its body whose resistance is so low in comparison, that the creature basically just takes all of the electricity instead.

Unfortunately, the amount of energy on cables these days is actually quite high, so the creature would either need to take a lot of energy and convert it with immense efficiency or it would dissipate a lot of it as heat and heat usually increases the resistance of materials pretty fast. Even if the creature can withstand it, the electronic and/or cables may not.

One way around it could be to have the creature have some kinda of room temperature superconductor on it (these don't currently exist as far as humans know, but there are superconductors at very low temperatures and a lot of research is being done on how to create one that has such properties at room temperature). If I understand it correctly, there would be no resistance to the flow of electricity on the creature, so it should not dissipate any energy it doesn't absorb as heat and, since the creature's resistance is so much lower than the one on the cables/electronics, the vast majority of electrical energy should flow to the creature first and I can see that creating a short circuity (I don't know how the electrolysis would be affected, or if it would be affected, by the use of superconductors though).

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome Edrol. Nice detailed explanation for a first answer. Enjoy the site. $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2022 at 2:33

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