"Growing" batteries with a virus!

Can a virus make a better battery for electric bikes and electric cars?

That’s what MIT researcher

is working on.

She is developing means to engineer new materials by “programming” bacteriophage viruses. She programs them genetically, and this causes them to produce proteins in particular configurations to optimize the properties of the anodes and cathodes in the batteries. She is using that programming to increase energy density, and to make thin, flexible battery cells that might be used as materials in clothing, for example.

I saw her talk today at the annual

, and she not only described new battery technologies, but a host of other applications for her work, including higher-density solar arrays.

She first described using the phages to synthesize lithium-cobalt batteries. While that is technically exciting, for electric vehicle use, the cobalt chemistries have had safety concerns in the past, so may not see much use in electric vehicles. But, she is also looking at integrating new chemistries based on Lithium-Iron Phosphates and similar. And she happens to be friends with one of the inventors of the Li-Fe-PO4 chemistry.

Sometimes it can get a little depressing that all the electric bike related products seem to be made in asia, and very few in North America. But, at least we have some great researchers like Angela, innovating and developing new technologies like this that may help address the significant energy challenges that our country faces.

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