Scientists of the U.S. Department of Energyâ€™s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are very close to creating miniature gadgets that â€œharvest electrical energy from everyday tasks,â€ according to aÂ Berkley Lab news release.
The recent discovery may turn out to be just the thing we all need in a world desperately looking for renewable energy resources. The Berkley Lab teamâ€™s project relies on piezoelectricity, a concept that dates back to the 1880s and that basically means mechanical stress, such as a tap or a vibration, can cause the appearance of an electric charge in a solid.
Using a virus â€“ the M13 bacteriophage â€“ instead of the traditional piezoelectric materials that are toxic to humans, the scientists built up a true power-generating viral â€œsandwich.â€ They stacked up 20 layers of virus films between two gold-plated electrodes and managed to generate about a quarter the voltage of a triple A battery.
â€œMore 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,â€ says Seung-Wuk Lee, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Labâ€™s Physical Biosciences Division and a UC Berkeley associate professor of bioengineering.
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