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Viruses Spark Up Electricity Hunt at Berkley Lab

Scientists of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are very close to creating miniature gadgets that “harvest electrical energy from everyday tasks,” according to a  Berkley Lab news release.

Credit: Berkley Lab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The recent discovery may turn out to be just the thing we all need in a world desperately looking for renewable energy resources. The Berkley Lab team’s project relies on piezoelectricity, a concept that dates back to the 1880s and that basically means mechanical stress, such as a tap or a vibration, can cause the appearance of an electric charge in a solid.

Using a virus – the M13 bacteriophage – instead of the traditional piezoelectric materials that are toxic to humans, the scientists built up a true power-generating viral “sandwich.” They stacked up 20 layers of virus films between two gold-plated electrodes and managed to generate about a quarter the voltage of a triple A battery.

More research is needed, but our work is a promising first step toward the development of personal power generators, actuators for use in nano-devices, and other devices based on viral electronics,” says Seung-Wuk Lee, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and a UC Berkeley associate professor of bioengineering.

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