Battery technology is looking brighter (and more futuristic) than ever as researchers at MIT recently announced they have successfully engineered viruses to build both the positively and negatively charged ends of a lithium-ion battery. These virus-built batteries can be created cheaply using an environmentally benign process, tout the same energy capacity as state-of-the-art rechargeable batteries, and may one day be used to power everything from personal electronic devices to hybrid vehicles.
Photo by Georg Fantner, MIT
This isn’t the plot of the latest ‘B’ movie, although you would be forgiven for thinking so. The research team led by Angela Belcher, were able to create both a cathode and an anode. These are the key components in a battery that allow the movement of electrons across the electrolyte, thus generating power. Before you get worried about turbocharged super-bugs, rest assured that the viruses used will be common bacteriophages, which are harmless to humans (or so one hopes).
The researchers hope to eventually create a full-sized car battery. It’ll be a while though, as their current prototype is roughly the size of a coin and can only be used around 100 times. On the bright side, it uses no harmful chemicals, and is quite friendly from an environmental point of view.