In their ongoing search to find eco-friendly sources of energy, scientists have devised methods to harness power from smaller and smaller living things, such as the M13 bacteriophage. Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have managed to generate electricity using an organic virus. Although the virus – known as the M13 bacteriophage – is active, there’s no need to worry about contracting an illness because it’s engineered to only attack a specific kind of bacteria. This means that, in the near future, you might not have to worry about finding an outlet to charge your cell phone.
By relying on a property known as piezoelectricity, the M13 bacteriophage is able to convert mechanical energy, like curling your fingers to make a fist, into electrical energy, which can then be used to power electronics. When researchers attached a 1 square-centimeter film coated with the virus to a pair of gold electrodes, the film produced roughly a quarter of the energy produced by a single AAA battery – just enough electricity to display the number 1 on an LCD display. Although this might seem insignificant, the experiment proves that biomaterial piezoelectrics can be integrated into current electronic devices.
The long-term goal of the research is to develop this technology and use it to make consumer products, such as cell phones, that can be charged while you walk.