Berry said that possible applications include a high-efficiency bacteria-operated battery, where by using geobater, a type of bacteria known to produce electrons, can be wrapped with graphene to produce electricity. The research was presented at the annual American Physical Society conference in Pittsburgh and the American Institute for Chemical Engineers conference in Philadelphia.
"Materials science is an incredible field with several exploitable quantum effects occurring at molecular scale, and biology is a remarkable field with a variety of specific biochemical mechanisms," Berry said. "But for the most part the two fields are isolated. If you join these two fields, the possibilities are going to be immense. For example, one can think of a bacterium as a machine with molecular scale components and one can exploit the functioning of those components in a material device."
For his doctoral research, Berry used bacteria to make a humidity sensor.
"That was only possible through combining materials science with biological science," he said.
Another area of his current research is compressing and stretching molecular-junctions between nanoparticles. Berry said that his group has developed a molecular-spring device where they can compress and stretch molecules, which then act like springs, allowing researchers to study how they relax back. He said that this technology could be used to create molecular-timers in which the spring action from a decompressed molecule on a chip could trigger a circuit, for instance.
Berry said for stretching the molecules, Kabeer Jasuja, a doctoral student in chemical engineering, came up with the idea to place the device on a centrifuge to stretch the mol
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