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Next-Gen Batteries Could Be Made From Viruses

Scientists are hard at work developing the next generation of tiny batteries, and, instead of using dangerous chemicals and heavy metals, they're using viruses -- real, bacteria-eating viruses. For the first time, researchers at MIT recently used these little guys to build the world's first virus-built, Lithium-ion battery. Turns out that viruses can be genetically engineered to act as microscopic construction workers. Here's how it works.

A standard Lithium-ion battery (like the one in your camera or laptop) has two important parts: a cathode and an anode. Essentially, the battery produces electricity as Lithium ions flow between the negatively charged anode and the positively charged cathode. As with the traditional Lithium-ion battery, the virus version has a cathode and an anode. Because the virus version of the battery is composed of small nanowires and conducive material, it can be significantly smaller than traditional batteries, built from larger amounts of graphite and cobalt oxide.

Scientists achieve this by engineering the viruses to do specific things, such as coating themselves in a specific element and linking together to form nanowires. What does this all mean? Well, for starters, the MIT scientists have built a prototype with the same energy capacity and power performance as a plug-in electric car battery, except the virus version is the size of a coin. The team's leader, Angela Belcher, told the MIT news office that the technology allows for extremely lightweight, flexible batteries, which can form to the shape of their containers. It could also be used to create tiny nano-batteries, which could be used in advanced devices, like microcomputers and nanobots.

Don't about these new batteries going crazy and morphing into some sort of super-electro-virus, though, as the viruses aren't dangerous to humans. In addition, the process to build these virus batteries is much less expensive, and more environmentally-friendly, than traditional Lithium-ion battery fabrication. The viral synthesis takes place at room temperature and uses completely non-toxic material. We can't wait to see where this technology goes, since the MIT group has announced plans to make the next generation of virus-batteries available for commercial use. [From: MIT News, via BBC]

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Tags: mit, nano, nanotech, nanotechnology, nanotube, nanowires, science, viral battery, ViralBattery, virus battery, VirusBattery



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