When you say virus, whether it's related to our bodies or computers, nothing much good comes to mind. But one professor from the University of California Berkeley may be changing that perception by harnessing the power of biological viruses to produce something truly electric.
Professor Seung-Wuk Lee and his team of researchers believe what's in this Petri dish could someday change the future. The idea came to Professor Lee, straight out of Science Fiction.
Seung-Wuk Lee, Professor of Bioengineering, said, "Just like the Star Wars movie, there is the clone soldiers so one soldier is making another soldier and they keep replicating likewise in our genetically engineered virus. One virus in incubation with bacteria cell makes exact identical copies of the same viruses, millions of copies within 4 ½ hours later and zillions, uncountable overnight cultures."
The viruses are shaped like pencils, which naturally settle and lineup. When Dr. Lee puts the viruses inside a film, and then applies pressure, he's able to create electricity enough to power this LCD display. It's only one quarter the strength of triple-A battery, but it's a groundbreaking start.
Seung-Wuk Lee, Professor of Bioengineering, UC Berkeley, said, "We use genetically engineered viruses, these viruses to generate electricity. This is a totally new way to harvest clean energy. It is a totally non-toxic, non-harmful, benign virus."
Professor Lee says in the next five to ten years, he envisions placing the technology in shoes, so that maybe your steps could power something like a cell phone or any electronic device. There's also the possibility of placing the device in the actual floor to perhaps power a streetlight. But the most challenging application could be even more life-changing.
Seung-Wuk Lee, Professor of Bioengineering, also said, "Therefore if we implant these materials in our body, basically we can produce personalized electric generator to operate biomedical devices and biomedical sensors, so therefore we can save our life as well."
As for the next step, the team is working on ways to generate more power. Professor Lee says he's already been contacted by battery and electric generator companies. But for now, he believes it's most important to stay focused on the science.