Adenosine/Victor Tangermann
Virus Zombies

This MIT Scientist Is Building Batteries Using Modified Viruses

byVictor Tangermann
2. 28. 20
Adenosine/Victor Tangermann

An army of worker viruses could help build more environmentally friendly batteries.

Virus Builders

Over the past decade, MIT bioengineering professor Angela Belcher has been working on a battery-building technology that works by conscripting millions of zombie viruses to repeat a simple task, Wired reports.

Belcher first manipulates genetically engineered bacteriophages to infect a bacterium, thereby creating millions of copies of themselves — and coercing them into creating a usable material in the process, such as a thin cobalt oxide nanowire that could later be used inside a battery electrode, according to Wired.

Going Green

Experts told Wired that the technique could eventually be used to extend a battery’s charge and discharge rate by forcing the millions of viruses to create a highly ordered electrode structure, with shortcuts for ions moving through electrodes.

“Something my lab is completely focused on now is trying to get the cleanest technology,” Belcher told the magazine.

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Scaling Up

It will likely be a while until we see the technology make it to market. Scaling up the tech to a point where it can compete with conventional batteries is proving extremely difficult.

“In a battery production facility they use tons of material, so getting to that level with biological molecules is not very easy,” Konstantinos Gerasopoulos, a senior research scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, told Wired.

Currently, Belcher is working on an entirely different application: creating tumor-hunting nanoparticles that are designed to treat cancer patients.

READ MORE: The Next Generation of Batteries Could Be Built by Viruses [Wired]

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