Bacteria and viruses: the future of energy storage?

One of the most crucial questions surrounding renewable energy generation is how to store the electricity so consumers can access it when they need it.

There are already dozens of solutions, and new ways are being investigated almost every day. Viruses and bacteria are no exception.

In 2009 scientists at the MIT announced that they managed to genetically engineer viruses, which can act as the positive and negative ends of a lithium battery. The manufacturing process is promising as it can be done at room temperature, while it doesn’t require any chemicals to be added and is therefore safer for health reasons. Of course the viruses themselves are also harmless to humans. Another key advantage of this solution is that the batteries could be charged about a hundred times without losing capacity.

Tobacco Mosaic Virus by AJC1

Last year researchers at the University of Maryland discovered that the tobacco mosaic virus – which ‘normally’ destroys tobacco, tomato or peppers – can be modified to extend the battery life of lithium-ion batteries by even ten times. Manufacturingthem can also be cheaper in this case as the virus binds itself to the metal surface and there is no need for a special procedure.

Bacteria are also thoroughly researched for enhancing energy storage opportunities. The so-called microbial fuel cells (MFC) use the chemical energy generated by bacteria, which is then converted into electrical energy. Initially mediators were needed for this process but today there are already solutions without any toxic materials. An example is the MFC by Lebone Solutions, using African soil for generating electricity and even charging mobile phones.

In May 2011 scientists at the University of East Anglia announced that they found out how electrons were passing in and out of the cells of the bacteria called Shewanella oneidensis. This will be a great help for researchers developing bacteria-batteries and should enhance the amount of collectable electricity. This type of bacteria creates electricity by respiration (as all living cells do), but bacteria can breathe many more things than just oxygen. In this case electrons of the bacteria are conducted metals like iron or manganese. Eventually these batteries may be ‘programmed’ to charge themselves with appropriate nutrients anywhere. Also, benefits are that bacteria can be found almost anywhere and they could even eat waste to generate electricity.

Virus and bacteria researches for energy storage solutions are more and more widespread and promising, hence it may even mean the basis for future energy storage solutions, solving one of the most important questions about renewable energy development.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image by AJC1

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2 Comments to “Bacteria and viruses: the future of energy storage?”

  1. I have been checking out some of your articles and i can claim nice stuff. I will definitely bookmark your blog.

  2. Interesting analysis, thanks for posting

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