An array of microbattery electrodes
An array of microbattery electrodes, each only about four micrometers, or millionths of a meter, in diameter. Image courtesy / Belcher Laboratory, MIT

Engineers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have figured out a way to deal with virus that is better than just killing them: they’re putting them to work. The researchers have developed a new technique wherein a key component of a microscopic battery is assembled by viruses, allowing for the cheap and simple construction of very small power sources.

The research, first published in the journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, builds on earlier work by the MIT group involving viruses. In the earlier experiments the scientists genetically engineered viruses to make a protein skin that attracts bits of metal. In the new experiment, the researchers put that skill to work by having the viruses build a specific part of a larger machine.

Batteries are composed of four key components, an anode and cathode that form the positive and negative poles, an electrolyte that transfers the electric charge between them, and a separator to keep the anode and cathode apart. In the MIT experiment, two polymer layers that would serve as the electrolyte and the separator were lain on top of a four micrometer wide post.

The genetically engineered viruses were then encouraged to grow on top of those layers, where they would attract a metal, in this case cobalt oxide, which would serve as the anode. The researchers still haven’t engineered a virus to make the cathode, but that is clearly the next step. The whole process is especially attractive because of its easy and low cost. The problem is application. Right now, there are no devices that require a battery one tenth the width of a human hair.

However, in the future these small batteries could serve as the primary power source for a wide range of nanotechnology. Which is good, because in these days of green energy we wouldn’t want our nanotechnology running on coal or oil.

SOURCE: The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (A technical journal from MIT)

About Author //


Bipul Raman

Bipul Raman - Bipul Raman (@BipulRaman) is a Technology Enthusiast, Programmer/Coder and Blogger. Read more at :


  1. Md Ebrahim Shah
    Feb 27, 2013

    MIT engineers are genius they can do every impossible to possible. I like their engineering.

  2. […] Supercapacitors have been around since 1966 but were never considered as a serious alternative for batteries. Ironically, we could have the said the same for AM radio before Armstrong developed the […]

  3. Majaz Ahmad
    Sep 25, 2011

    for sure :) :) :) i will be always visiting here :) i

  4. Majaz Ahmad
    Sep 23, 2011

    That’s a tremendous article and really a green and so green effort,, its indeed that “look at the positive side of what u have, u will get miraculous observations in science”..just most thanks cuz this article is so much inspiring and the biggest point is “ITS FOR A GREEN AND BETTER WORLD”…we hope that this virus powere battery is a very near future power resource and may be under the influence of this research we will build devices that would require a battery one tenth the width of a human hair.
    Will be waiting for more and great inspiring and learning articles from you.

    • Bipul Raman
      Bipul Raman
      Sep 24, 2011

      Thanks Majaz ! Keep visiting EEP, u will always find a new thing.. :)

Leave a Comment

Tell us what you're thinking... we care about your opinion!