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Charge Your Cell Phone With a Virus?

Posted by JenThorpe at 10:07 PM on May 15, 2012

Usually, when you see the words “virus” and “phone” in the same sentence, it indicates that something bad may have happened. This time, though, the virus is one that can actually be helpful. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have been studying a special virus that can generate electricity.

The virus is called M13 bacteriophage. As the name implies, it only “eats” or attacks, bacteria. It is not able to cause harm to humans. It is a genetically engineered virus that can manufacture more of itself when water is added to it. How many more? According to Professor Seung-Wuk, “trillions or jillions” more.

The M13 bacteriophage virus has piezoelectric properties. The viruses are long and thin and have a tendency to line up next to each other, (like pencils in a box). When pressure is applied to the virus, it produces a charge. Right now, the viruses are able to generate about 25% of what comes from a AAA battery.

The hope is that in the future, scientists will find a way to use the M13 bacteriophage virus to make small, personal, generators. The generators would collect the energy from movement, such as walking or typing on a keyboard. That energy can then be used to charge your cell phone. There is potential that the virus could be used to create a self-sustainable electric source that can be implanted in the body in place of a pacemaker. The possibilities are endless!

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