Scientists are harnessing the distinct abilities of viruses to transfer energy, and they’re using quantum mechanics to do it. In a joint effort involving biologists, engineers, and quantum physicists from MIT and Italian energy company Eni, researchers have manipulated a virus into mimicking a plant cell. “A group of us who spoke different [scientific] languages worked closely together, to both make this class of organisms, and analyze the data. That’s why I’m so excited by this,” says Angela Belcher, a professor of biological engineering at MIT.
This process is achieved by placing a virus in contact with synthetic dyes that could mimic photosynthesis. This enables the virus to “learn” plant actions, particularly one called “chromophore” which is vital to the delivery of energy to different plant cells. As a next step, researchers will be applying these viruses to solar cells in hopes of creating cheaper and more efficient solar panels.