Navigation Links
Berkeley Lab scientists generate electricity from viruses
Date:5/13/2012

Imagine charging your phone as you walk, thanks to a paper-thin generator embedded in the sole of your shoe. This futuristic scenario is now a little closer to reality. Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a way to generate power using harmless viruses that convert mechanical energy into electricity.

The scientists tested their approach by creating a generator that produces enough current to operate a small liquid-crystal display. It works by tapping a finger on a postage stamp-sized electrode coated with specially engineered viruses. The viruses convert the force of the tap into an electric charge.

Their generator is the first to produce electricity by harnessing the piezoelectric properties of a biological material. Piezoelectricity is the accumulation of a charge in a solid in response to mechanical stress.

The milestone could lead to tiny devices that harvest electrical energy from the vibrations of everyday tasks such as shutting a door or climbing stairs.

It also points to a simpler way to make microelectronic devices. That's because the viruses arrange themselves into an orderly film that enables the generator to work. Self-assembly is a much sought after goal in the finicky world of nanotechnology.

The scientists describe their work in a May 13 advance online publication of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

"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.

He conducted the research with a team that includes Ramamoorthy Ramesh, a scientist in Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and a professor of materials sciences, engineering, and physics at UC Berkeley; and Byung Yang Lee of Berkeley Lab's Physical Biosciences Division.

The piezoelectric effect was discovered in 1880 and has since been found in crystals, ceramics, bone, proteins, and DNA. It's also been put to use. Electric cigarette lighters and scanning probe microscopes couldn't work without it, to name a few applications.

But the materials used to make piezoelectric devices are toxic and very difficult to work with, which limits the widespread use of the technology.

Lee and colleagues wondered if a virus studied in labs worldwide offered a better way. The M13 bacteriophage only attacks bacteria and is benign to people. Being a virus, it replicates itself by the millions within hours, so there's always a steady supply. It's easy to genetically engineer. And large numbers of the rod-shaped viruses naturally orient themselves into well-ordered films, much the way that chopsticks align themselves in a box.

These are the traits that scientists look for in a nano building block. But the Berkeley Lab researchers first had to determine if the M13 virus is piezoelectric. Lee turned to Ramesh, an expert in studying the electrical properties of thin films at the nanoscale. They applied an electrical field to a film of M13 viruses and watched what happened using a special microscope. Helical proteins that coat the viruses twisted and turned in responsea sure sign of the piezoelectric effect at work.

Next, the scientists increased the virus's piezoelectric strength. They used genetic engineering to add four negatively charged amino acid residues to one end of the helical proteins that coat the virus. These residues increase the charge difference between the proteins' positive and negative ends, which boosts the voltage of the virus.

The scientists further enhanced the system by stacking films composed of single layers of the virus on top of each other. They found that a stack about 20 layers thick exhibited the strongest piezoelectric effect.

The only thing remaining to do was a demonstration test, so the scientists fabricated a virus-based piezoelectric energy generator. They created the conditions for genetically engineered viruses to spontaneously organize into a multilayered film that measures about one square centimeter. This film was then sandwiched between two gold-plated electrodes, which were connected by wires to a liquid-crystal display.

When pressure is applied to the generator, it produces up to six nanoamperes of current and 400 millivolts of potential. That's enough current to flash the number "1" on the display, and about a quarter the voltage of a triple A battery.

"We're now working on ways to improve on this proof-of-principle demonstration," says Lee. "Because the tools of biotechnology enable large-scale production of genetically modified viruses, piezoelectric materials based on viruses could offer a simple route to novel microelectronics in the future."


'/>"/>

Contact: Dan Krotz
dakrotz@lbl.gov
510-486-4019
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Berkeley Lab researchers discover critical rotational motion in cells
2. Berkeley Lab researchers create first of its kind gene map of sulfate-reducing bacterium
3. Berkeley Lab tests cookstoves for Haiti
4. Illinois-UC Berkeley discovery turns seaweed into biofuel in half the time
5. UC Berkeley launches Synthetic Biology Institute to advance research in biological engineering
6. Berkeley Lab researchers make first perovskite-based superlens for the infrared
7. Getting organized: Berkeley Lab study shows how breast cell communities organize into breast tissue
8. Berkeley Lab researchers illuminate laminins role in cancer formation
9. Berkeley Lab to build DOE advanced biofuels user facility
10. Berkeley scientists find new way to get physical in the fight against cancer
11. Berkeley Lab researchers participate in Homeland Security study of subway airflow
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/30/2017)... ANGELES , March 30, 2017  On April ... Hack the Genome hackathon at Microsoft,s ... exciting two-day competition will focus on developing health and ... Hack the Genome is the ... been tremendous. The world,s largest companies in the genomics, ...
(Date:3/30/2017)... -- Trends, opportunities and forecast in this market to ... AFIS, iris recognition, facial recognition, hand geometry, vein recognition, ... industry (government and law enforcement, commercial and retail, health ... and by region ( North America , ... , and the Rest of the World) ...
(Date:3/28/2017)... , March 28, 2017 The ... Hardware (Camera, Monitors, Servers, Storage Devices), Software (Video Analytics, ... Region - Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, ... 2016 and is projected to reach USD 75.64 Billion ... and 2022. The base year considered for the study ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... The award-winning American Farmer television ... quarter 2018. American Farmer airs Tuesdays at 8:30aET on RFD-TV. , With global ... the challenge of how to continue to feed a growing nation. At the same ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... ... of medical marijuana products targeting the needs of consumers who are incorporating medical ... takes place in Phoenix, Arizona. , As operators of two successful Valley dispensaries, ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... instruments and applications consulting for microscopy and surface analysis, Nanoscience Instruments is ... Nanoscience Analytical offers a broad range of contract analysis services for advanced ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... Mass. , Oct. 6, 2017  The ... work of three scientists, Jacques Dubochet, Joachim ... breakthrough developments in cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) ... technology within the structural biology community. The winners ... Scientists can now routinely produce highly resolved, three-dimensional ...
Breaking Biology Technology: