Caught this on Wired last night (I can’t find the URL now, but it’s on /. this morning): scientists at MIT have genetically modified a common virus so that it attracts metal ions and then extrudes them as nano-scale wires.
The resulting nanowires can be used in minuscule lithium ion battery electrodes, which in turn would be used to power very small machines, the researchers report in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.
They modified the M13 virus’ genes so its outside layer, or coat, would bind with certain metal ions. They incubated the virus in a cobalt chloride solution so that cobalt oxide crystals mineralised uniformly along its length.
They added a bit of gold for the desired electrical effects.
The resulting nanowires worked as positive electrodes for battery electrodes, the researchers said.
They hope to build batteries that range from the size of a grain of rice up to the size of existing hearing-aid batteries.
Yeah, the headlines are playing up the ‘viral batteries’ idea, even though that isn’t really what’s been done here. But still, I gotta ask (as always), how cool is that?