PORTLAND, Ore. Viruses can be used to assemble tiny batteries that can then be printed on plastic films, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers claim.
The MIT investigators reported details on Thursday (April 2) that of genetically-engineered viruses that were used to self-assemble nanoscale lithium-ion battery materials. The resulting batteries were then printed onto plastic films using green processes.
MIT researchers claimed to have perfected the last major component of its flexible battery film, demonstrating performance comparable to existing lithium-ion batteries that run everything from laptop computers to hybrid automobiles. The team is currently optimizing its materials to boost performance beyond existing lithium-ion batteries. Eventually, they plan to commercialize the printable battery films.
"Viruses offer a new way of wiring batteries," said team leader Angela Belcher, a MIT materials scientist. "Now we have the anode material, the cathode material and the micro-contact printing method." Next, they must "stamp out whole batteries, optimize their performance and scale up the technique for commercialization."
|MIT's Angela Belcher lead the printed battery research team|
Along with boosting battery performance, the MIT scientists said they will adopt form factors impossible today by using inexpensive, printable assembly techniques. For their demonstration, the MIT researchers fabricated a typical coin-cell battery.
Last week, MIT president Susan Hockfield demonstrated the prototype battery to U.S. President Barack Obama. During a White House briefing on green energy technologies, Hockfield said flexible battery films could be manufactured near room temperature using environmentally benign processes.
A typical lithium-ion battery uses a negatively-charged anode made of graphite to regulate the flow of lithium ions to the positively-charged cathode,which is made of cobalt. In MIT's version, the anode and cathode materials are self-assembled into structures that provide more surface area due to the nanoscale patterning of living viruses. The viruses were selected from among populations of common bacteriophages, which infect bacteria but are harmless to humans.