Berkeley Lab scientists have developed a way to generate power using harmless viruses that convert mechanical energy into electricity. Their generator is the first to produce electricity by harnessing the piezoelectric properties of a biological material.
Piezoelectricity is the accumulation of a charge in a solid in response to mechanical stress. The milestone could lead to tiny devices that harvest electrical energy from the vibrations of everyday tasks such as shutting a door or climbing stairs.
The scientists tested their approach by creating a generator that produces enough current to operate a small liquid-crystal display. It works by tapping a finger on a postage stamp-sized electrode coated with specially engineered viruses. The viruses convert the force of the tap into an electric charge.
This development points to a simpler way to make microelectronic devices because the viruses arrange themselves into an orderly film that enables the generator to work. Self-assembly is a much sought after goal in nanotechnology.