Tame Viruses May Help Increase Battery Capacity

This is rather a creepy line of research. The tobacco mosaic virus, which normally preys on tobacco crops, has been modified in such a way that it is essentially being used as a tiny helper, and millions of them can line up and bind themselves to the walls of battery cells, increasing the surface area and consequently the potential charge.

The ethical issues are strange here, because after all viruses are barely classified as alive by our definition of the word. They’re self-propagating organic molecules, to be sure, but that’s where the similarities end. Still, breeding billions upon billions of these things to go and destroy themselves by binding their rods to the battery walls seems somehow evil.

Maybe I’m just being sentimental. And of course it’s nothing compared with the liberties viruses take with our bodies.

At any rate, ethics considerations aside, the viruses attach themselves securely to the battery cell, and there they stay while the experimenters coat them in a conductive material. Essentially, the battery (Li-ion in this case) would be half metal ion, half molds of virus skeletons. Kind of creepy, don’t you think? I mean, self-assembly is cool, but the level of “intelligence” required to effect it makes you think.

More on the research can be found at the University of Maryland’s news section.

[via PhysOrg]