2 Apr :In what is claimed to be the first potential applications of synthetic biology, researchers have now shown that viruses, otherwise harmful to humans, can power cars and electronic gadgets.
A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has revealed that it can genetically engineer viruses to build both the positively and negatively charged ends of a lithium -ion battery, as reported by a science journal.
"The new virus-produced batteries have the same energy capacity and power performance as state-of-the-art rechargeable batteries being considered to power plug-in hybrid cars, and they could also be used to power a range of electronic devices," lead researcher Angela Belcher said.
In fact, according to them, the new batteries could be manufactured with a cheap and environmentally benign process – the synthesis takes place at and below room temperature and requires no harmful organic solvents, and the materials that go into the battery are non-toxic.
The viruses are a common bacteriophage, which infect bacteria but are harmless to humans. The team found that incorporating carbon nanotubes increases the cathode’s conductivity without adding too much weight to the battery.
In lab tests, batteries with the new cathode material could be charged and discharged at least 100 times without losing any capacitance.The prototype is packaged as a typical coin cell battery, but the technology allows for the assembly of very lightweight, flexible and conformable batteries that can take the shape of their container.
Once that next generation is ready, the technology could go into commercial production," Belcher said.