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Virus Powered Batteries For Military

Virus Powered Batteries For Military

A new flexible battery powered by a simple virus could one day end up stitched into the clothes of military personal and civilians.

Scientists have made new break-through in using a common virus to improve the materials used in lithium-ion batteries – a study originally pioneered by Angela Belcher and her team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The batteries are flexible, rechargeable and boast the same power, performance and recharge specifications as today’s standard rechargeable batteries, providing a perfect solution for on-the-go power for portable devices.

virus powered battery angela belcher

Virus Powered Battery

Mark Allen, Ph.D., the spokesperson who presented the report explained that the new batteries could be woven into clothing such as uniforms and bulletproof vests, or even put on the side of containers any shape or size:

“We’re talking about fabrics that also are batteries. The batteries, once woven into clothing, could provide power for a range of high-tech devices, including handheld radios, GPS devices and personal digital assistants. They could also be used in everyday cell phones and smart phones.”[]

A typically battery generates electricity by converting chemical energy into electricity using two electrodes, an anode and cathode, that are place either side of an electron. When a load (or device) is placed between the positive anode and the negative cathode the circuit is complete and the load/device gets its power.

The new build replaces the batteries cathodes with an iron-fluoride material that gives the batteries lightweight and flexible properties with minimal loss of power.

Allen based his work on research originally carried out by Angela Belcher and her M.I.T. team. Belcher was the first to engineer a virus as a biotemplate for preparing lithium-ion battery anodes and cathodes.

The virus, known as M13 bacteriophage, consists of core genes coated by a protein, a design that only infects bacteria and is harmless to humans. Allen said.

“Using M13 bacteriophage as a template is an example of green chemistry, an environmentally friendly method of producing the battery. It enables the processing of all materials at room temperature and in water.”[]

In fact, the new batteries are actually ‘less dangerous than those used in current lithium-ion batteries because they produce less heat, which reduces flammability risks.’ Allen added.

Belcher Biomaterials group is now in the beginning stages of testing and will be scaling up the virus-enabled battery materials for military projects, some of which include powering unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance operations.

Allen is confident that the trials will go well, and that the batteries will one day end up in clothing designed for military and civilians:

“Typical soldiers have to carry several pounds of batteries. But if you could turn their clothing into a battery pack, they could drop a lot of weight. The same could be true for frequent business traveler’s – the road warrior’s – who lug around batteries and separate rechargers for laptop computers, cell phones, and other devices. They could shed some weight.”[]

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  1. A new generation of power: Hi-tech rechargeable batteries developed for military. , 08/23/2010.
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