MIT puts genetically modified virus in battery

Researchers from MIT researchers, who apparently have not watched any sci-fi horror movies, have been adding genetically modified viruses to the production of nanowires.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, co-authored by graduate student Dahyun Oh, professors Angela Belcher and Yang Shao-Horn, and three others the idea was to develop   stronger materials for the batteries’ electrodes and improving the number of charging-discharging cycles the batteries can cope with.

The target of their work was to increase the surface area of the wire, thus increasing the area where electrochemical activity takes place during charging or discharging of the battery.

They made an array of nanowires, each about 80 nanometres across, using a genetically modified virus called M13.  This can capture molecules of metals from water and bind them into structural shapes. Wires of manganese oxide were built by the viruses and have a rough, spiky surface, which increases their surface area.

The increase in surface area produced by this method can provide “a big advantage” in lithium-air batteries’ rate of charging and discharging.

Another process involves adding a small amount of a metal, such as palladium, which greatly increases the electrical conductivity of the nanowires and allows them to catalyze reactions.

These modifications produce a battery that could provide two to three times greater energy density than today’s best lithium-ion batteries, the paper said.