Researchers at the University of Maryland have used a virus that attacks plants to build a new type of lithium-ion battery which promises a tenfold increase in efficiency.
The tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) was chosen because it reproduces quickly and can bond to metal. The team tweaked its genetic structure so that it could be coated with metals, then grew the new virus on metal plates and coated the plates with conductive metals to make highly efficient electrodes.
"Virus-enabled nanorod structures are tailor-made for increasing the amount of energy batteries can store,” said Chunsheng Wang, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the university.
“They confer an order of magnitude increase in surface area, stabilise the assembled materials and increase conductivity, resulting in up to a tenfold increase in the energy capacity over a standard lithium-ion battery."
The virus itself is killed in the coating process so there is no risk of it spreading. The process is also much more efficient since the virus bonds itself to the electrode base plate naturally, eliminating the need for an industrial fixative.
The team also reports that the technique is highly scalable, and could be used on conventional laptops and tablets but also to build tiny, nanoscale batteries for use in sensors and implanted devices.
"Our electrode synthesis technique, the high surface area of the TMV and the capability to pattern these materials using processes compatible with microfabrication enable the development of such miniaturised batteries," said materials science Ph.D. student Konstantinos Gerasopoulos.
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