Generating Electricity From Microbes
Estimated reading time: 7 minute(s)
These days we can generate electricity from just about anything. All energy can be converted to electricity, and now, even the tiny bit of energy that is generated when viruses crawl. Quite amazing, and technologies like these will definitely be a big part of our future.
Imagine your phone charging itself just from the friction in your pocket. We can easily make this, so why don’t we?
(Hint: If you didn’t need a charger you wouldn’t have to pay for electricity.)
The researchers were able to create enough electrical current to power a small liquid-crystal display, just by tapping a finger on a small electrode coated with the engineered viruses. The viruses then convert the mechanical energy into an electric charge.
It’s the first generator to create electricity using the piezoelectric properties of microbiology.
After first confirming that the chosen bacteria M13 is piezoelectric, they genetically engineered it to raise the voltage higher than it naturally was. And then stacked the thin self-organized films on top of each other to a height of 20 layers.
After creating a film of the viruses measuring one square centimeter, they placed it between two gold-plated electrodes connected to a liquid-crystal display.
When pressure is applied, it produces about a fourth 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.”