Future Batteries Could Be Made out of Viruses

We’re now using viruses to make batteries…like the kind you could use in your car. So, how does that work and how close are we to a virus-powered car?

After recognizing that we have the ability to insert information into a virus’ genome to make stuff, a pioneering team at MIT is using viruses for their own devices.

The team is working with the M13 bacteriophage, which is a kind of virus that only infects bacteria, and whose circular genome is relatively simple and is easy to manipulate. Scientists expose batches of this virus to the material they want it to latch onto, like a specific kind of metal. Then, natural or engineered mutations in the M13 virus will alter the virus’ surface to latch onto the material of choice.

Then scientists take the viruses that have ‘learned’ to latch onto the metal and pop them into the bacteria the virus would normally infect, which then make millions of copies of those modified viruses. Repeat this process over and over, and those bacteria basically become viral replication factories that can pump out a finely-honed viral tool that does your bioengineering bidding.

Find out more about how scientists make something like a metal-hugging virus into something like a battery in these Elements.

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