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Published on April 2nd, 2009 | by Amiel Blajchman

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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.



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