Physicists have learned to produce electricity using viruses


American scientists have developed a new device that generates an electrical current through the mechanical deformation of the huge number of virus particles, and provided information regarding the assembly of such a source of electricity in the edition of Nature Nanotechnology.

The group, led by nanotechnologists Son-wook Lee (Seung-Wuk Lee), a physicist from the University of California at Berkeley, said that the particles of the virus, bacteriophage M13, which carries no harm to the human body, have an unusual structure conducive to the emergence of the piezoelectric effect (receiving electrical current by compression or mechanical deformation a certain type of materials.)

As explained scientists viral envelope protein origin is constructed so that if the mechanical deformation on the surface it appears so-called dipole moment, which is an asymmetric distribution of positive and negative charges. Variations in the concentration of charge carriers contributes to an electric current in a conductor, which is connected to opposite ends of the piezoelectric source.

Scientists have created a thin film from a solution of the numerous virus particles and dried beforehand, tried to define its piezoelectric properties. The experiment revealed that the M13 bacteriophage particles can be actively involved in the piezoelectric effects.

The research group can not stop on the strength of current produced by the deformation of the viral film, which was achieved in the first experiment. So they decided to improve its properties by doing the modification of the genome of the bacteriophage.

By changing some parts of the gene responsible for the accumulation of the protein components in the viral envelope, physics added to the protein amino acids with a negative charge. Additional amino acids increased the difference between the poles of the dipole, which significantly improved the properties of the piezoelectric film composed of viruses.

After verifying the effectiveness of a new strain of the virus, nanotechnology completed the assembly of the pilot generator of electricity. For this purpose, they have cultivated a large number of virus particles and created 20 separate films, putting them on top of each other and are connected to the electrodes.

As noted by researchers producing compression of the film in the amount of electricity required for the liquid crystal display, namely, its inclusion in the image for a few seconds digit "one." According to physicists, the film was able to produce current voltage of 400 mV and the power of a 6 nA.

Scientists believe that the films of this kind can be integrated in a garment or footwear and may serve as a power source for portable electronics. But this requires the strengthening of the piezoelectric properties of such a film.

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