MIT scientists have developed a technology that uses the construction abilities of tiny viruses to build "nanowire" structures which function as in very thin lithium-ion batteries.
MIT Professors Angela Belcher, Paula Hammond and Yet-Ming Chiang have by simply manipulating a few genes within common laboratory virus strains were able to make the viruses grow and self-assemble into a functional electronic device.
Batteries are made of two opposite electrodes-a negatively charged anode and a positively charged cathode-separated by an electrolyte. Specifically, the viruses were altered to generate protein coats that collect molecules of cobalt oxide and gold. They thus formed the anode.
Dr. Belcher said, "we can make them in larger diameters but they are all 880 nanometers in length," which is the length of an individual virus particle, and, "once we've altered the genes of the virus to grow the electrode material, we can easily clone millions of identical copies of the virus to use in assembling our batteries. The nanoscale materials we've made supply two to three times the electrical energy for their mass or volume, compared to previous materials."
The advantage of this technology is that in the future car batteries could be these rather than gasoline.
Science journal has published the work.