The breakthrough could mean that one day, we might be able to charge our mobile phones with paper-thin generators that harvest electricity from the vibrations of everyday tasks such as shutting a door or climbing stairs, the scientists said.
“More research is needed, but our work is a promising first step toward the development of personal power generators, actuators for use in nano-devices, and other devices based on viral electronics,” said Seung-Wuk Lee, a scientist at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
The device works by harnessing the piezoelectric properties of the M13 bacteriophage, a virus that only attacks bacteria and is benign to people.
Piezoelectricity is electricity resulting from accumulation of a charge in a solid in response to pressure and is the basis for items like electric cigarette lighters and push-start propane barbecues.
“We’re now working on ways to improve on this proof-of-principle demonstration,” Mr Lee added.
“Because the tools of biotechnology enable large-scale production of genetically modified viruses, piezoelectric materials based on viruses could offer a simple route to novel microelectronics in the future.”
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