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Power Science Technology

Researchers Generate Electricity From Viruses 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the common-cold-powered dept.
First time accepted submitter toomuchtogrok writes "Imagine charging your phone as you walk, thanks to a paper-thin generator embedded in the sole of your shoe. This futuristic scenario is now a little closer to reality. Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a way to generate power using harmless viruses that convert mechanical energy into electricity. The scientists tested their approach by creating a generator that produces enough current to operate a small liquid-crystal display. It works by tapping a finger on a postage stamp-sized electrode coated with specially engineered viruses. The viruses convert the force of the tap into an electric charge."
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Researchers Generate Electricity From Viruses

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    it's a good thing viruses don't mutate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thomas8166 (1244688)

      it's a good thing viruses don't mutate.

      According to TFA It's a bacteriophage, meaning it only infects bacteria. Using viruses for nanotechnology isn't really new; a type of gold-coated bacteriophage nanowire was designed by an MIT team a few years back.

    • it's a good thing viruses don't mutate.

      What, instead of electricity, they would start producing magnetism?

  • Midichlorians (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZiakII (829432) on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:01AM (#39993671)
    Thee viruses convert the force

    I was thinking of Midichlorians, when I read it but I have no idea where I got it from I do not remember it any of the three Star War Movies.
    • I do not remember it any of the three Star War Movies.

      Weren't there 6 movies?

    • Of course, if your war movies have only three stars, there won't be any Midichlorians in them. You know, Midichlorians are expensive, they are only used in war movies which have at least four stars.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Makes sense. About time Microsoft capitalized on this to go carbon neutral.

  • by machine321 (458769) on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:02AM (#39993687)

    Weren't we supposed to have electricity generation from walking on sidewalks, too?

    It sucks getting older, and realizing that these stores come out every few years.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      The idea of generating power from your shoes is a silly one. Are you going to run wires from your shoes to the pocket your phone is in?

      That dumb idea aside, this is just another method of electricity generation; you could likely produce the same amount of power with piezoelectrics for a lot cheaper.

      Remember self-winding wristwatches?

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        "The idea of generating power from your shoes is a silly one. Are you going to run wires from your shoes to the pocket your phone is in?"

        No, you use step up transformers and convert the electricity to thousands of volts and send it up the legs of the person wearing the shoes.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Every hair on your body would stand on end. That might be a tad uncomfortable (although at the miniscule amperages all you would feel would be your hair standing on end).

      • by CSMoran (1577071)

        The idea of generating power from your shoes is a silly one. Are you going to run wires from your shoes to the pocket your phone is in?

        But you don't necessarily need wires. You could have a small battery, say the size of an SD card, in the sole of the shoe. Once a similar battery in your phone is low on juice, you'd swap it for the one that lived in the sole of your shoe for the last 6h.

    • by P-niiice (1703362)
      all these stories will get added to a iphone in a few years. your iphone will multitask your brain while charging itself from you touching it and sending the charge faster than the speed if light before even you decided to touch it. its the wires man. the freaking wires
  • Whatever... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bosef1 (208943) on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:06AM (#39993711)

    Hey, let's use the most inefficient means possible to extract energy from the human body. I'm still waiting for the inductive charger powered by a fuel cell that runs off my blood sugar. You can sit in your chair, talk on the phone, and still lose weight.

    • So you get diabetes but you can play Angry birds indefinitely? Sounds great!
    • by Mortiss (812218)
      You realize that lowering your blood sugar by whatever means will not cause you to loose weight? Rather, your body will have a more of a tendency to go into the "survival mode" where it will hold on to any of the fat that you have and as soon as you eat all nutrients will be stored for your own good. Not to mention feeling of fatigue and hunger caused by the low blood sugar.
      • In the other arm is an IV drip of Krispy Kreme doughnut glaze.
        • by P-niiice (1703362)
          An enema is faster absorption, but requires a special viscosity of glaze. got a little awkward when I asked for it, hehe
  • by FiloEleven (602040) on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:39AM (#39993959)

    That question sadly went unanswered in the summary, but is discussed in the article. The viruses are preferable because making existing piezoelectrics is apparently difficult and requires toxic chemicals, while these viruses are self-replicating bacteriophages. They are also under the right conditions self-organizing, making the creation of piezo film easy by comparison. Looks like there's a long way to go to get a decent amount of electricity out of them, though.

    • Yea it's damn tought to make a piezo generator w/o toxic compounds. All that's required is a quartz crystal and conductive pickups as we've done for years (computer timing circuits/clocks anyone?) and NO I didn't RTFA but it sounds like there's lots of bias about Piezo generators.

      • I wondered a bit about that myself, but my intent was only to report what was missing from the summary. Is quartz used as a generator? I know it's often used as a timing oscillator, but if my understanding is correct it requires a bit of power to do so.

    • "Looks like there's a long way to go to get a decent amount of electricity out of them, though."

      From what I understand (not much) from the article, the virii are only part of the conversion process--through some biological equivalent of a piezoelectric device. So this still does NOT address the problem that the military encountered with piezoelectric generators built into soldiers footwear, primarily that the soldier him/herself provides the actual energy and that turned out bad for the soldiers. The soldie

  • by captainpanic (1173915) on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:42AM (#39993985)

    We're terrible at powering anything. We have poor motivation, work horrible hours and worst of all: we have freedom of choice.
    I doubt we're gonna make ourselves tired just to power our phone, when your phone adapter doesn't even show up on your electricity bill, because it's so insignificant.

    It's sad that they always aim at the lowest energy consumer in my household: my puny 1 W phone, instead of my 1000 W laundry machine, my 150 W fridge, my 300 W computer, or the lights in the house, which add up to at least 250 W (yes, I use energy saving lights).

    One wind turbine would probably be the equivalent of all of London jumping around on these shoes.

    • And yet, there you sit, probably throwing off 70-90 watts of thermal. Perhaps if you'd just wear the perfectly insulated clothing made of 100% efficient heat to electricity conversion material, all would be well.

    • by Solandri (704621)

      It's sad that they always aim at the lowest energy consumer in my household: my puny 1 W phone, instead of my 1000 W laundry machine, my 150 W fridge, my 300 W computer, or the lights in the house, which add up to at least 250 W (yes, I use energy saving lights).

      They're not aiming at the lowest energy consumer. Those low-energy devices are just about the only things that can be powered by human power. During testing for the Gossamer Albatross [wikipedia.org], Paul MacCready found that a fit athlete could generate a bit

    • by jclaes (980059)

      ...It's sad that they always aim at the lowest energy consumer in my household: my puny 1 W phone

      Wouldn't the purpose be to be able to power your phone while you're far away from a convenient outlet or don't have your adapter handy? Some people do travel, go hiking, walk, enjoy live, ...

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday May 14, 2012 @08:48AM (#39994041) Homepage

    Infect humans with virus.
    Place humans in a sustainability tube filled with goo, hook up wires and feeding tubes.
    generate electricity to power the robot society after the uprising.

    Yeah, I don't see this as a good idea.

  • by handy_vandal (606174) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:33AM (#39994479) Homepage Journal

    Please remove "specially" from the phrase "specially engineered viruses". We all understand that engineered viruses are very special.

    "Specially": it's not just redundant, it has a self-congratulatory tone I find annoying.

    Sincerely, the Specially Troll

  • As if [insert your favorite antivirus software here] didn't cause enough inadvertent trouble already by sucking up resources. Now it will be able to just flat-out stop your [portable electronic device] from working at all. Scan, disinfect -> battery dies.
  • Is it possible to make them pulse like a quartz to obtain a clock signal? Or, at least, to get a piezo-virus ignited cigarette lighter? It would be the ultimate gizmo..
  • How the Zombie Apocalypse starts
  • by hjf (703092)

    So does this mean a Windows computer can now be self-powered?

  • What we need in our modern society is a way of generating power when we are sitting on our ass - not when we are walking! Maybe if we put this in our underwear not our shoes?
  • That's what the scientists thought in the "Blackjack 21" anime. They created a virius that could produce electricity to run an artifical heart. They ended up creating the incurable Phoenix disease. Dr. Blackjack found the cure just in time.

I am here by the will of the people and I won't leave until I get my raincoat back. - a slogan of the anarchists in Richard Kadrey's "Metrophage"

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