With all the hush about the bio-computing, scientists have now also discovered a method to harness electricity from a bacteria eating virus. And the utility, instead of lead and cadmium, you can use this virus to charge your mobile phones. A team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley are working on M13 bacteriophage so that the current toxic elements used in battery charging elements can be replaced by this safe method.
This virus is reported to possess a unique property, called piezoelectricity, which means that it can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. The mobile devices we use are generally piezoelectric in nature as they need to translate energy of sound waves into electrical signals which are transmitted and then again converted into sound waves at the other side of the line. But such components are made of heavy, toxic metals which are also known to be cause of cancer in many cases. However, many bio molecules such as proteins, amino acids, nucleic acids etc are also said to be piezoelectric. Now, with discovery of such a technique to harness the ability of these elements, many applications can be served safely.
This M13 bacteriophage has the capability to generate electricity when compressed without the requirement of any traditional toxic metal. Bio-engineer Seung-Wuk Lee also comments that this pencil shaped virus is a perfect energy source because the virus is completely safe for humans. Further, scientists can obtain a large amount of the virus from a single flask of infected bacteria.
Lee’s team is currently involved with the process of improving the electricity generating power of the virus. Twisting the amino acid base of the virus’s protein by adding four-negatively charged glutamate molecules and stacking the layers of viruses on top of each other, the team hopes to significantly increase the efficiency of M13. These scientists have found that attaching a one square centimeter virus sheet to a pair of gold electrodes, the sheet produced enough electricity to light up a liquid crystal display of number 1. The whole result was 400 mV of power, quite a fine sized battery battery.
Researchers also believe that this innovation will result in the phenomenon of charging the phone while walking. “This will bring a lot of excitement to the field”, says Zhong Lin Wang, an engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He also added that by utilizing these properties of biomaterials, we can find unique applications in the future.
Technology with a hint of a safe future! What else can we ask for?
So, we wish the scientists a good luck in the endeavor and hope that such innovations are constantly encouraged.