A Virus could lead to motion-powered gadgets

Scientists have designed a new approach to motion-powered personal electronics - A benign virus that makes electric charge. In application, it could lead to smartphones charged from the motion of walking.

The viruses are stacked onto thin films and then several thin films are layered to build up as much voltage as possible.

With this technology, it is possible to envisage small-scale structures patterned with piezoelectric elements (so long as the structures are larger than the virus particles). This is ideal for small-scale sensing and energy-harvesting devices that can then be coupled to conventional electronics.

The Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory described a microelectronic device that uses a benign virus to build up electric charge from movement.Its first prototype was able to display the No. 1 on an LCD display when a person pressed a postage-stamp size button.

That amount of current isn't useful enough to charge common electronics, such as a music player or phone. But the researchers' novel approach to harvesting energy from motion shows promise either for consumer electronics or sensors that use vibrations or changing pressure to charge themselves.

The researchers are working with the piezoelectric effect, where charge accumulates in certain materials based on some sort of stress, such as motion or vibration. Some existing piezoelectric materials are toxic and are difficult to work with, according to the Lawrence Berkeley Lab group.


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