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Power Science Technology

Researchers Generate Electricity From Viruses 85

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 thomas8166 ( 1244688 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:04AM (#39993703) Homepage

    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.

  • by FiloEleven ( 602040 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:39AM (#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.

  • by captainpanic ( 1173915 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @09:42AM (#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.

  • by captainpanic ( 1173915 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @10:50AM (#39994707)

    70 Watts of thermal, available at 37 C, and at an ambient temperature of 20 C (room temperature) would give you a whopping 5 W of electric, assuming you achieve maximum Carnot efficiency (which you won't).

    100% efficient heat to electricity conversion has a huge potential. In power stations... but not really in clothing.

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