Scientists Build Electricity Producing Viruses

If current research proves fruitful, the homes and cities of the future may be powered by viruses. Berkeley Lab scientists have genetically engineered the M13 virus to output more power. 

What's the Latest Development?


Scientists at the Department of Energy's Berkeley Lab have genetically engineered a virus known as M13 to emit electricity when pressure is applied to it. "M13 is a natural power source, but researchers enhanced its output by genetically engineering the virus, adding some negatively-charged amino acids to one end of its tough outer shell." Scientists organized the viruses onto squares of film measuring about one square centimeter and then sandwiched the film between two gold-plated electrodes. By connecting wires to the electrodes, scientists were able to power a small liquid-crystal display screen. 

What's the Big Idea?

Scientists were able to produce six nanoamperes of current and 400 millivolts of potential, which is about a quarter of the voltage of a triple-A battery and was enough to flash the number '1' on the display screen. The 'piezoelectric effect' explains the behavior of viruses that, when squeezed, produce electricity. "Any kind of motion can power up M13, so you could conceivably power your house by jumping up and down on a virus-coated floor, or power your iPod by jiggling it in your pocket." Or imagine painting your laptop keyboard with the film so that every time you type, your battery powers up.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


Big Think Edge
  • The meaning of the word 'confidence' seems obvious. But it's not the same as self-esteem.
  • Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
  • Join Big Think Edge today and learn how to achieve more confidence when and where it really matters.
Videos
  • Prejudice is typically perpetrated against 'the other', i.e. a group outside our own.
  • But ageism is prejudice against ourselves — at least, the people we will (hopefully!) become.
  • Different generations needs to cooperate now more than ever to solve global problems.


Active ingredient in Roundup found in 95% of studied beers and wines

The controversial herbicide is everywhere, apparently.

(MsMaria/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • U.S. PIRG tested 20 beers and wines, including organics, and found Roundup's active ingredient in almost all of them.
  • A jury on August 2018 awarded a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma victim $289 million in Roundup damages.
  • Bayer/Monsanto says Roundup is totally safe. Others disagree.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists see 'rarest event ever recorded' in search for dark matter

The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.

Image source: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
  • The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
  • The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Keep reading Show less