Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have found a way to exploit the harmless kind of organisms that usually make you sick to charge your gadgets.
The researchers said they have successfully engineered viruses that create electricity in response to mechanical stress. In an experiment, they coated a stamp-sized electrode with the virus, which then generated electricity as soon as the scientists tapped the surface of the stamp. This current design, the first product that uses the piezoelectric properties of a biological material, produces enough energy to power a small LCD. Future designs could be integrated, for example, in shoes or clothing - or common movable objects such as doors or wheels - to create much more energy, power gadgets or charge their batteries.
"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.
The initial results of the research is published in the a May 13 advance online publication of the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The research is quite apparently in its very nascent stages, but creating electricity from kinetic energy is a wildly popular research topic these days and this one clearly shows promise, as long as the viruses are as harmless as the researchers say.