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Power Technology

MIT Building Batteries Using Viruses 98

thefickler writes "Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are now using viruses to build cathodes for Lithium-Ion batteries. Three years ago these same researchers found they could build an anode using viruses. Creating both the anode and cathode using viruses will make batteries easy to build. This nanoscale battery technology will allow batteries to be lightweight and to 'take the shape of their container' rather than creating containers for the batteries, which could open up new possibilities for car and electronics manufacturers."
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MIT Building Batteries Using Viruses

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  • by FlyByPC ( 841016 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @07:03PM (#27452579) Homepage
    Now there's a whatcouldpossiblygowrong article if I ever saw one...
    • Right, really infectious power. The mutations might cause a new cold fusion discovery real soon now.

      But then again, it is kinda neat to get those little bastards doing some handy work for us. However, I am a bit sceptical whether it would be efficient on an industrial scale, like so many other innovations.

    • by kkrajewski ( 1459331 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @07:51PM (#27452925) Journal

      (Doctor pulls out voltmeter.) Hold these, please. Yep, you're infected.

    • The synthesis takes place at and below room temperature...

      Specifically, they manipulated the genes in a laboratory strain of a common virus, making the microbes collect exotic materials -- cobalt oxide and gold...

      Indeed, I hope they are careful with these viruses, because if they got infected, and happened to be suffering from hypothermia, the viruses could use up their bodily gold and cobalt oxide, and then they could get shocked! Assuming they had AIDS too that is.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by krkhan ( 1071096 )
      So, in future, instead of random statistics like "Melissa caushed American business $9.87 billion", we may finally have something authentic (and precise) like "Conficker was at least 14 Mega Joules, it was devastating".
    • by julesh ( 229690 ) on Saturday April 04, 2009 @03:37AM (#27455743)

      Now there's a whatcouldpossiblygowrong article if I ever saw one...

      Well, yes, the people who use that tag are all reactionary luddites, and this story will appeal to them.

      Please, what could go wrong with this? The virus escapes and... err... behaves almost exactly like the virus it was engineered from? Except, you know, in presence of iron phosphate (a rather rare substance) it grows in a different shape. Clearly a danger to the survival of our species, there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Goaway ( 82658 )

      Oh no, scary scary viruses! Viruses are super evil and will totally destroy humanity if we dare to meddle with them! Time to break out the torches and pitchforks, or at the very least post smarmy posts on Slashdot!

      (Here's a hint: Viruses are probably the most common entities in the biosphere. You are pretty much swimming in them.)

  • mines? You definitely want to strap on a helmet before going in.....
  • Since it doesn't actually do anything else of note, why not use it as an energy source?

    Now we just need a /.-comment powered battery, that takes in comments from /. and converts them to pure energy.

    This is scarier in the case of biological viruses though... imagine a battery breaking open and leaking HIV or Influenza all over the place..

    This gives the warning: "battery contains toxic materials" a whole new meaning.

  • by iminplaya ( 723125 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @07:20PM (#27452717) Journal

    will power your vibrator? Herpes? You just scratch it to recharge?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by iminplaya ( 723125 )

      Flamebait -- Heheh, I get it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Vectronic ( 1221470 )

      Couldn't find a sex device, but Eco Drive [] could work. Not quite the same, but better than nothing kinda thing.

      Not sure why there aren't more (any?) MP3 players that use it, think there used to be some jogging radios that used kinetic energy to power, or help power them though. Phones, would probably last much longer as well. Kinetic from walking/etc, temperature from holding it, solar from having it on the desk/dash/etc...

  • The body of this one could use some serious work. Cool tech, though.
  • by hwyhobo ( 1420503 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @07:23PM (#27452749)
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @07:27PM (#27452779) Homepage

    After an accidental viral infection at MIT labs, the new hero can now do things that only batteries could do before! His given name, Melvin C. Cooper emerges now as "D u r a M e l !"

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He has a capacity for courage!
      His potential is unlimited!

      I only wish I could be there to view his inductance into the Justice Hall(effect)!

    • I think you mean Copper, not Cooper.

      He is "The Copper Top", after all.

      • Sorry to break this to you but the name "Cooper" is derived from the word copper...a person who makes buckets and tubs... usually made of...? You got it! Copper... among other things.

        • Err, don't think so. A Cooper made beer barrels, from wood with iron rings. Now if the virus was actually yeast and you could brew a battery the size of a barrel... excellent.
        • Wow.
          So wrong.

            • You googled til your googler was dry, raw, and exhausted, and your evidence comes from

              Look at the people laughing at you, telling you what a cooper is.

              define:cooper (wtf @ dino crisis reference)

              # United States industrialist who built the first American locomotive; founded Cooper Union in New York City to offer free courses in the arts and ...
              # United States film actor noted for his portrayals of strong silent heroes (1901-1961)
              # United States novelist noted for his stories of American In

              • You only need to google "name origins cooper."

                Keep in mind that English is a conglomerate language that is largely Germanic. For an English name to have a Germanic origin or root is far from uncommon. Cooper comes from copper.

                • No, it doesn't.

                  A cooper is someone who makes casks and barrels.
                  They don't use copper.

                  Surnames are largely derived by occupation.

                  You are wrong.
                  The internet has beaten you.

                  I will not visit

                  • My goodness. You have proven you are quite closed minded and unavailable for new information. Incapable of learning or just unwilling? Refusing to review evidence makes you seem... what's the word? Prideful?

    • Unfortunately, he was into yoga and shorted out.
  • It's harmless. (Score:5, Informative)

    by mail2345 ( 1201389 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @07:29PM (#27452793)
    According to the article, these virii only infect bacteria. Unless they mutate. I'm fairly certain that they have controls to prevent that kind of thing. Plus, phage based medications turned out to not to have a high chance of fatalities.
    • Would it help if one kept these batteries in the refrigerator? Or would that make things worse?

    • I believe I remember similar work being done with the tobacco mosaic virus at the university of Maryland.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "According to the article, these virii only infect bacteria."

      Good thing you don't have any of THOSE in ya.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )

      It's bad enough when people in IT show there ignorance by using the term virii when talking about computer programs.
      This is actual wet science, so use the correct singular and plural.

      viÂrus (vÄ'rÉ(TM)s) Pronunciation Key
      n. pl. viÂrusÂes

      1. Any of various simple submicroscopic parasites of plants, animals, and bacteria that often cause disease and that consist essentially of a core of RNA o

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        From Latin virus (Toxin, poison); Nom./Acc. Pler. viri...

      • by mattack2 ( 1165421 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @08:11PM (#27453095)

        It's also bad enough when people apparently don't use the "Preview" button first.

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The Real WT^W^W^WIt's even worse that SourceForge doesn't give a fuck about making Slashdot support Unicode.

      • Re:It's harmless. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by derGoldstein ( 1494129 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @09:50PM (#27453931) Homepage

        It's bad enough when people in IT show there ignorance

        "there" ignorance, huh?...

      • Re:It's harmless. (Score:5, Informative)

        by syousef ( 465911 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @10:46PM (#27454291) Journal

        It's bad enough when people in IT show there ignorance by using the term virii when talking about computer programs.

        First of all, it has already been pointed out you used the wrong word "there" instead of "their" which is just brilliant irony.

        Secondly both words "virii" and "viruses" have been used widely. Quoting a single source (poorly without previewing) to single one out as the "correct" one is just silly. At the very least if you're going to point out the mistake, point to some relevant information on why "viruses" is the correct pluralisation. Here I'll do it for you: []

        Thirdly, why do you quote the rest of the definition of the word virus? I didn't realise this was some obscure and unknown word that needed to be explained.

        In summary, pipe down you arrogant jackass. Correct your own mistakes before trolling over other people's.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Emerssso ( 865009 )
          Technically speaking, as a linguist, *both* are acceptable plurals of the word 'virus'. They both meet the broad definition of morphological variants, namely that at least some English speakers use both /virii/ and /viruses/ and nearly all speakers of the language can understand the content the speaker is attempting to convey. Furthermore, both use morphological pluralization rules found in other words in the language (for example, /cacti/ and /foxes/. From a linguistic standpoint, it doesn't really matt
    • Re:It's harmless. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted AT slashdot DOT org> on Friday April 03, 2009 @08:42PM (#27453435)

      do you know how many percent of the cells in our body are actually bacteria?
      without that bacteria, you would:
      - get infected with every crap bacteria you touch (your whole skin is coated in good bacteria, to keep the bad away)
      - not be able to digest your food (your intestines are full of them, doing good work for you)
      - and even change your way of thinking (because bacteria interact with the communication of neurons. complicated stuff. can't find the article now.)

      you wouldn't even be able to survive without them!

      So you better care for your bacterial friends, or other not no nice forms may soon replace them. :)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Actually I now do. This from Google Answers : [] Q: What I'm curious about tonight is what percentage of an average person's body weight is accounted for by bacteria? A. It appears that the average human bacterial load is approximately 2 to 9 pounds, depending upon which reference source is consulted. Below you'll find a variety of sources from which to choose. "Within every human being is a flourishing, living colony of approximately four pounds
      • Indeed, and don't forget about the toxic byproducts from common antibacterial soaps and the tendency of MRSA to be spread via sanitizing products.

      • by martas ( 1439879 )
        oh come on, do you have any idea how many times you come into contact with viruses (or virii... who gives a fuck which) every day? i know it's fun to predict doom, but don't get so serious about it.
        • I do know this.
          The skin is so massively successful in protecting the body, that scientists hat extreme problems getting any medicamentation to get trough it. For virii it's the same thing.
          But you can destroy your protection by other means than cutting yourself. Some stuff destroys protective layers/cells. Some stuff opens pores for everything to get in.

          This also was my point.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The virus they're using has been approved for use in the human body by the FDA, if I recall correctly.

      But even then, the virus is obliterated after forming the materials, isn't it? I mean, don't they heat treat it at pretty high temperatures to burn out the residual organics?

    • According to the article, these virii only infect bacteria.

      Well crap, there goes my idea to make some ground breaking changes to Sexually Transmitted Disease detection and treatment... Mutate the diseases and make them easier to find and treat. I already had the first TV spot plotted out:

      Embarrassing Testicle Arcing? Try "Sparks Away" Today!

    • Yes, "I'm fairly certain that they have controls to prevent that kind of thing. "

      Add this to the list of potential epitaphs.

  • Coincidentally, I just finished watching the anime series 'Black Jack 21' and the plot revolves around a virus used as a battery and all the problems it causes.

  • by franois-do ( 547649 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @08:19PM (#27453203) Homepage
    "will allow batteries (...) to 'take the shape of their container' rather than creating containers for the batteries"

    Wonderful ! Now, instead of having some standard battery sizes (AA, AAA and so on), we are going tu have as many different shapes of batteries as there are products, not only between manufacturers but within the line of the same manufacturer (for the same reason that Gillette has 10 different shapes of blades, or than portables PCs have 200+ type of batteries, or that we hare 20 or so different AC/DC transformers at home), so you will have to buy every time a given manufacturer's battery and throw it away rather than reuse it on a later apparatus.

    I am afraid that while technically we have a progress here, our production organization wil make it a regression; it something that happens from time to time.

    • The Polaroid SX70 was the first "instant picture" camera to produce the sealed photographs everyone today thinks of when you mention that type of camera. Prior to that model, the print ejected from the camera had to be wiped with chemicals to fix & preserve the image.

      When the Polaroid SX70 was introduced there was quite a fuss raised (at least in photography magazines) about the many new technologies used in the new camera. The film, of course; chrome plated plastic; the manufacturing method for the le
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by julesh ( 229690 )

      Wonderful ! Now, instead of having some standard battery sizes (AA, AAA and so on), we are going tu have as many different shapes of batteries as there are products

      I have non-standard batteries in my cell phone, my laptop, my electric bike, my portable media player, my bluetooth headset and my digital camera. I have standard size batteries in... err... actually, I can't remember anything I own that uses standard batteries. Oh, the digital scales in my kitchen, which take 2xCR2032s.

      Standard sized batteries

      • Standard sized batteries are already on their way out. Manufacturer-specific rechargeables are the new standards.

        Maybe... or maybe not. Progress is seldom linear, and tomorrow is not specially supposed to me just "more of today". It may on the contrary be very different, and even opposite to some respect (think of the automobile or computer products from 1950 to 1970 and try to extrapolate that to 2010, you get very strange results ;-)

        The key to many things is scale economy. If you can offer the same se

  • market it as sustainable, green, and battling climate change it will sell! Did I miss any other catch-phrases?

  • No virus, no battery
  • by heroine ( 1220 ) on Friday April 03, 2009 @11:06PM (#27454369) Homepage

    Last month's battery which could recharge in 2 seconds was way better than this.

    • by julesh ( 229690 )

      Seriously, this is a useless battery. It's based on the Li-FePO4 chemistry, the same as the fast charging one the parent mentions, but it (1) doesn't have the fast charging capability and (2) is only suitable for 100 recharge cycles. Li-FePO4 is a lower power-density variant of lithium ion that is used primarily because it can usually last for about 3000 recharge cycles rather than the 1000 that's typical for traditional lithium ion cells. So the only advantage of this tech: it might be cheap to make. B

  • Nothing further. Or, is this about intestinal fortitude...
  • You mean the next time my computer catches a virus, it could infect me as well? And this virus will work even if I run Linux?

    Everything I know is a lie!!!! >_

    Someone stop this thing before it infects 12 million PCs!

  • "Lead authors of the Science paper are Yun Jung Lee and Hyunjung Yi, graduate students in materials science and engineering. Other authors are Woo-Jae Kim, postdoctoral fellow in chemical engineering; Kisuk Kang, recent MIT PhD recipient in materials science and engineering; and Dong Soo Yun, research engineer in materials science and engineering."


    Guess where you're going to be buying all your batteries from when you replace oil with electricity.


    • Umm here, where they go to school? Or are you implying that Korea will become battery capital of the planet?
  • So I guess the battery will start in the gas tank, wrap itself around the radiator, and plug directly into the back of the radio.

    I'm pretty sure that in ten years time, I'll have to take my car to the dealer to get the battery changed.

    Get off my lawn!

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner