April 2, 2009

Virus-built batteries advance

Change two genes in a bacteria-infecting virus and you can make high-power lithium ion batteries cheaply and cleanly.

The genetically engineered virus acts as a smart glue that brings together iron phosphate and carbon nanotubes to make cathodes for lithium ion batteries. One altered gene causes iron phosphate nanoparticles to form on the virus coat, and the other causes the other end of the virus to stick to single-walled carbon nanotubes.

The researchers had previously engineered the virus to build anodes, and they are working on combining the previous and current work to make whole batteries. They are also adapting the process to work with materials that can't be used with existing battery manufacturing processes.

The low-temperature biological process can work with non-toxic materials and promises to be cheaper than today's battery manufacturing. The process could be used to make batteries for portable devices and hybrid and electric vehicles.

Research paper:
Fabricating Genetically Engineered High-Power Lithium Ion Batteries Using Multiple Virus Genes
Science, published online April 2, 2009

Researchers' homepages:
Biomolecular Materials Group, MIT
The Strano Research Group
Kisuk Kang
Gerbrand Ceder

Related stories and briefs:
Virus-built batteries -- precursor research
Nanomaterial promises record fast batteries -- related research

Back to ERN April 6, 2009



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