Consumer Technology

Published on April 2nd, 2009 | by Amiel Blajchman

14

Green Lithium Batteries Powered by Genetically Engineered Virus

April 2nd, 2009 by  


Researchers at MIT have managed to genetically engineer viruses so that they can build rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in the form of a plastic film. These new batteries could then be used in anything from cellphones to iPods to the rechargeable batteries in plug-in electric hybrid cars.

As an added bonus, the batteries can be constructed in an environmentally-friendly manner, avoiding toxic solvents and energy-intensive procedures:

“Because the viruses are living organisms, we had to use only water-based solvents, no high pressures and no high temperatures,” says Angela Belcher, a materials scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and a study coauthor.

Previously, the MIT research team developed a virus that could self-assemble into the negative end of a battery (the anode) by coating itself with cobalt oxide and gold. In a very similar manner, the new virus coats itself with iron phosphate and silver, creating the positive end of a battery (the cathode).

By engineering viruses to self-assemble into the anode and cathode ends of a battery, these new lithium batteries will also be able to be shaped into non-traditional forms using micro-contact printing.

The viruses used in this process are known as bacteriophages (a type of virus that infects species of bacteria), ensuring that the genetic engineering affects a type of virus benign to humans.

Image: © Zoom-zoom | Dreamstime.com

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About the Author

Amiel is the founder of the Globalis Group, an organization whose motto is "combining action and thought for a sustainable world." His experience includes working with the Canadian government on greenspace projects, sustainable development programs and on policy documents on issues as diverse as climate change, sustainable development, and the environmental and social impacts of transportation. He is listed on the UN’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory’s list of GHG experts, and has sat on the Canadian Environmental Certifications Board’s Greenhouse Gas Verification and Validation Certification committee.



  • opinion

    The GM modified virus may only effect bacteria and not humans, but keep in mind that bacteria does effect humans.

    What happens when one of those super bacteria bugs, resistant to all out avaliable antibiotics (like TB) gets infected with the GM and thus infecting us.

  • opinion

    The GM modified virus may only effect bacteria and not humans, but keep in mind that bacteria does effect humans.

    What happens when one of those super bacteria bugs, resistant to all out avaliable antibiotics (like TB) gets infected with the GM and thus infecting us.

  • Alex

    Is everyone sure this is not an April Fool?

  • Alex

    Is everyone sure this is not an April Fool?

  • Viruses are not considered living organisms, as a host cell is required for growth and reproduction. Is this a misquote?

    Thank you for sharing this information!

  • Viruses are not considered living organisms, as a host cell is required for growth and reproduction. Is this a misquote?

    Thank you for sharing this information!

  • What a great way to make best use of viruses!!

  • What a great way to make best use of viruses!!

  • Kent

    Sounds like an interesting strategy to have self-assembly batteries. Not clear from this short piece to what extent the host bacteria are required for this process.

    At first the thought of engineered viruses can be quite scary. However, it is important to note that the virus used in this development infect only bacteria and humans have been engineering such viruses for about 60 years now. Another interesting point of reference is that the ocean has millions and sometime billions viruses per liter. Think about this the next time you are out in the ocean and you accidentally get a mouthful. We are constantly interacting with, touching, ingesting and expelling microorganisms.

  • Kent

    Sounds like an interesting strategy to have self-assembly batteries. Not clear from this short piece to what extent the host bacteria are required for this process.

    At first the thought of engineered viruses can be quite scary. However, it is important to note that the virus used in this development infect only bacteria and humans have been engineering such viruses for about 60 years now. Another interesting point of reference is that the ocean has millions and sometime billions viruses per liter. Think about this the next time you are out in the ocean and you accidentally get a mouthful. We are constantly interacting with, touching, ingesting and expelling microorganisms.

  • Steve

    I wonder where the newest super virus will come from?

  • Steve

    I wonder where the newest super virus will come from?

  • zooky

    OMG it’s the future.

  • zooky

    OMG it’s the future.

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