A team of scientists at the University of Maryland recently announced that a virulent disease that destroys tobacco could enhance the energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries by ten times. The virus, known as tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), not only destroys tobacco, but fruits such as tomatoes and peppers — however the scientists believe that a genetically engineered TMV could be used to bind perpendicularly to the metallic surface of a battery electrode in various but ordered patterns. Using the modified TMV, patterns could be then coated with conductive thin films (such as nickel), effectively increasing the amount of active material that collects lithium ions.

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According to the researchers, the technique it is 100% safe, as the virus is rendered harmless when is linked to the metal electrode plate. “The resulting batteries are a leap forward in many ways and will be ideal for use not only in small electronic devices but in novel applications that have been limited so far by the size of the required battery,” said lead professor Reza Ghodssi, director of the Institute for Systems Research. “The technology that we have developed can be used to produce energy storage devices for integrated micro systems such as wireless sensors networks. These systems have to be really small in size – millimeter or sub-millimeter – so that they can be deployed in large numbers in remote environments for applications like homeland security, agriculture, environmental monitoring and more; to power these devices, equally small batteries are required, without compromising in performance.”

“Infected” batteries will also be cheaper than regular lithium-ion batteries, as the technological process will be simpler and it won’t need any binding or conducting agents. If the virus is used on an industrial level, it will make lithium-ion batteries even cheaper, more numerous and more accepted by the mainstream consumer as well as manufacturers.

“The process is simple, inexpensive, and renewable. On average, one acre of tobacco can produce approximately 2,100 pounds of leaf tissue, yielding approximately one pound of TMV per pound of infected leaves,” says James Culver, a member of the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology and a professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture.

+ The University of Maryland

Via Green Optimistic