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Genetically engineered viruses produce electricity with the push of a finger

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A new type of generator has been created that makes it possible to produce electricity simply by pressing an electrode filled with a genetically engineered virus.

Berkeley Lab virus generator
Berkeley Lab virus generator

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a new type of generator that produces electricity when you push on a group of genetically engineered viruses. The process uses the M13 virus, which has been used by scientists to build batteries in the past, and is particularly attractive not only for its piezoelectric properties and ability to replicate rapidly, but also because it's harmless to humans. To create the generator a tiny electrode is coated with the virus, which can be pressed with a finger and then convert that energy into electricity used to power an LCD screen.

The team managed to increase the piezoelectric strength of the virus through genetic engineering, but even still the generator can only produce about a quarter of the voltage of a AAA battery — or enough power to make the number one appear on the display. It's only a proof-of-concept demo for now, but once the technology allows the M13 to be produced on a large scale, we could eventually be carrying around small electronics filled with viruses.