Scientists at the Lawrence Berkley National Lab discovered a way to create a virus battery, for lack of a better term. The technology “produces electricity by using the piezoelectric properties of a biological material,” according to the US Department of Energy website.
You can read more about the science and technical aspects below, but the announcement is exciting because potential commercial applications include the ability to power cell phones and similar devices with a clean, renewable energy source. Clearly, the market opportunities for such a technology – if proven safe and economically feasible – would be enormous.
From the DOE:
Berkeley Lab scientists Byung Yang Lee, Seung-Wuk Lee and Ramamoorthy Ramesh have developed a virus battery of sorts — one powered by motion.
The device developed by the Berkeley Lab team is the first to produce electricity by using the piezoelectric properties of a biological material. Piezoelectricity is the accumulation of a charge in a solid in response to mechanical force — think cigarette lighters or gas grill starters. In this case, the viruses convert the mechanical energy into electricity.
The M13 bacteriophage, a virus that only infects bacteria and is benign to people, was chosen because it replicates in large numbers quickly, is easy to genetically engineer and large numbers of the virus naturally orient themselves into well-ordered films.
Read the full DOE post here.