Viruses with voltage
A revolutionary mean of producing electric energy
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 03:03
Imagine powering a phone with a heartbeat or the pace of a walk. Dr. Seung-Wuk Lee has put together a team of scientists at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in the University of California, Berkley campus to develop a new technology that brings those possibilities to life. Their group has made a major discovery: they have found a way to convert benign viruses into raw electricity.
As it turns out, harmless viruses can harness vibrations of man-made and organic motions and, in return, provide a determined amount of electric energy. The phenomenon of this conversion has is called piezoelectricity. “Piezoelectricity is the accumulation of a charge in a material in response to mechanical stress when the materials have unique charge aligned structures,” said Dr. Lee.
He and his team have deduced that a small abundance of a virus known as the M13 Virus can produce enough electric energy to power LCD screens on mobile devices. While currently, the single tap of a finger can produce enough energy to light an LCD display. Dr. Lee and his team envision that their M13 virus can be coupled with the energy from human vibrations and possibly power substantial biomedical devices, such as pace makers and biosensors. Changing batteries may become an ancient activity as Lee’s device further develops.
Of course, the scale of Dr. Lee’s ambition does not end at biomedical devices; instead, his laboratory team is confident that their converter may impact consumer devices. Their large scale aim is to foray into the possibility of personal generators that may be installed inside a shoe; meaning, our phones, tablets, and music players may never have to set at home charging—instead, with the aid of the M13 Virus, every person in Denver could be creating their own energy through everyday movement.
This technology may seem extreme, but in 5-10 years personal generators may be a common product amongst the public. While, currently, the M13 Virus conducts only minimal energy, it is a tool that will make way for future energy production. The potential of the virus converter is great enough that, in foreseeable time, it may be the life source for small, and maybe even big, cities. “Currently the level of the performance of our device is still very low.” said Dr. Lee, but he hopes to provide personal generators to the public soon.
Perhaps, soon, there will be no need to merely imagine portable energy derived from organic means. Medical devices, leisurely trade, weapons, buildings, and cities may soon be powered by a mere virus—imagine that.