Gadget Chargers Go Viral…Literally

Posted by · May 18, 2012 1:59 pm

Adeno Associated VirusesWith all that modern medicine has brought us over the past decades, one thing that still eludes even the most brilliant of medical scientists is the cure for the common cold. Despite everything we can now cure with mind-blowing treatments, this pesky little virus remains indomitable. And given the continually mutating nature of viruses in general, chances are it will stay that way—for a long time.

But who says that has to be a completely bad thing? Apparently the scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab don’t.

According to new research published by a group of DOE scientists uncovered a way to use viruses to charge our batteries. By engineering viruses that respond to stress by generating electricity, the group was able to turn these cough-causers into sick little gadget chargers (pun intended).

“More research is needed, but our work is a promising first step toward the development of personal power generators,” suggests Berkeley Lab’s Seung-Wuk Lee. Lee is a faculty scientist for the lab’s Physical Biosciences Division as well as an associate professor of bioengineering at UC Berkeley. In fact, the group’s research may also yield “actuators for use in nano-devices, and other devices based on viral electronics,” Lee continued.

Find all of this kind of hard to believe? Lee and company produced this quick video demonstration of their research just in case you might:

As you saw in the video, the experiment consisted of a small electrode coated with a virus. When the researcher pressed on the electrode, the stress on the virus caused it to generate electricity, powering a very small LCD.

Commenting on the promising breakthrough, Douglas Perry of tech blog Tom’s Hardware reminds us that this project remains “in its very nascent stages.” Nevertheless, Perry observes, “creating electricity from kinetic energy is a wildly popular research topic these days and this one clearly shows promise.” In fact, Perry believes that future designs could include the integration of this technology into footwear, clothing, doors, wheels, and other commonly moving objects to generate useful amounts of energy.

With such possibilities, what’s not to like? That is, provided these viruses don’t make their users sick and bring about the next plague.

To learn more about these electric viruses…