Business, Economics and Jobs

Scientists harness virus energy (VIDEO)


Scientists have discovered they can harness the energy producing power of a harmless phage virus.


Joe Raedle

Scientists at the US Department of Energy‘s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have harnessed the energy producing power of a harmless phage virus.

According to, "The scientists coated a postage-stamp-sized electrode with specially engineered, harmless viruses that, when tapped, generated enough electricity to power a small LCD display."

The power produced by the resulting viruses didn’t generate a huge amount of electricity, noted. In fact they produced, "just six nanoamperes, the equivalent of about one-quarter the voltage supplied by a AAA battery — but it was a start."

More from GlobalPost: Nigeria's silent killer: its energy shortage

In the group's abstract published in Nature Nanotechnology they said, "we develop a phage-based piezoelectric generator that produces up to 6 nA of current and 400 mV of potential and use it to operate a liquid-crystal display. Because biotechnology techniques enable large-scale production of genetically modified phages, phage-based piezoelectric materials potentially offer a simple and environmentally friendly approach to piezoelectric energy generation."

The scientists explained Piezoelectricity is, "the accumulation of a charge in a solid in response to mechanical stress."

In short, a harmless virus produces energy by converting mechanical energy into electricity. In the future, every time you take a walk, the movement of your feet could be transformed into electricity to charge your cell phone by paper thin sheets of the virus in the sole of your shoe. 

Corresponding author Seung-Wuk Lee said in a statement, "More 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."

The group shared their findings in a video. 

More from GlobalPost: Why green energy might not solve the power crunch