Portable electronic gadgets are getting more and more high tech, but batteries that are used to run them are not fulfilling the demand. ScienCentral News brings us a story of group of scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology working on a new type of batteries.
Copying how red abalone build their shells, Angela Belcher and her team are developing a way to actually “grow” rechargeable batteries with the help of viruses–tiny microbes that multiply by infecting living cells. Their technique would take a matter of weeks, rather than the 15 years the red abalone needs to assemble a full-sized shell.
“We’re forcing the viruses to interact with materials that they would never interact with, normally. So now the viruses are a template to actually grow that material… it incorporates these new materials into its coat surface,” Belcher explains.
The team uses a type of virus that infect bacteria, called bacteriophages. When mixed together with a metal or other materials, millions of them can align and stack themselves into orderly layers, creating a new material.
“My dream is to have a material that’s genetically controllable and genetically tunable. I’d like to have a DNA sequence that codes for the production of any kind of material you want,” she says. “You want a solar cell, here’s the DNA sequence for it. You want a battery, here’s the DNA sequence for it.” Her lab has already produced the first virus-assembled nanoelectrode and virus-assembled battery, created in collaboration with professors Paula Hammond and Yet-Ming Chiang. The battery reached the theoretical capacity for energy density with the material they created and, by putting it on a flexible surface, Belcher weaves these into soldiers’ uniforms to try to lighten their loads. Now, her lab seeks to develop a virus-based transistor.