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Bad Virus Put to Good Use: Breakthrough Batteries
Date:12/6/2010

s-enabled nanorod structures are tailor-made for increasing the amount of energy batteries can store. They confer an order of magnitude increase in surface area, stabilize the assembled materials and increase conductivity, resulting in up to a10-fold increase in the energy capacity over a standard lithium ion battery," Wang said.

A bonus: since the TMV binds metal directly onto the conductive surface as the structures are formed, no other binding or conducting agents are needed as in the traditional ink-casting technologies that are used for electrode fabrication.

"Our method is unique in that it involves direct fabrication of the electrode onto the current collector; this makes the battery's power higher, and its cycle life longer," said Wang.

The use of the TMV virus in fabricating batteries can be scaled up to meet industrial production needs. "The process is simple, inexpensive, and renewable," Culver adds. "On average, one acre of tobacco can produce approximately 2,100 pounds of leaf tissue, yielding approximately one pound of TMV per pound of infected leaves," he explains.

At the same time, very tiny microbatteries can be produced using this technology. "Our electrode synthesis technique, the high surface area of the TMV and the capability to pattern these materials using processes compatible with microfabrication enable the development of such miniaturized batteries," Gerasopoulos adds.

While the focus of this research team has long been on energy storage, the structural versatility of the TMV template allows its use in a variety of exciting applications. "This combination of bottom-up biological self-assembly and top-down manufacturing is not limited to battery development only," Ghodssi said. "One of our lab's ongoing projects is aiming at the development of explosive detection sensors using versions of the TMV that bind TNT selectively, increasing the sensitivity of the sensor. In parallel, we are collaborating with o
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SOURCE A. James Clark School of Engineering
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