[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Batteries of the future need to deliver more energy, and they need to be smaller. Researchers at M.I.T. think they have developed a technology that can, as they say, pave the way for these batteries of the future—using viruses. The development was peer-reviewed in the April 3 issue of the journal Science.
Scientists genetically engineered a bacteriophage—a virus that infects bacteria but is harmless to humans. A few years ago the team created a virus that coated itself in cobalt oxide and gold and self-assembled into a nanowire for the battery’s anode. The cathode’s a little more complicated. In the most recent publication, the team created viruses that coat themselves in iron phosphate and then grab onto carbon nanotubes. This creates a powerful cathode.
The working cathode and anode make the virus-battery comparable to more expensive existing battery technologies. The team is now preparing to look into using other materials such as manganese phosphate that could lead to higher voltage. They say this could hold the promise of relatively inexpensive, nonpolluting, lightweight powerful batteries—a holy grail for an energy revolution.