MIT researchers have developed a new method of building batteries, solar panels and transistors by using… viruses!
They announced the discovery of a new way of making the nanomaterials by using viruses as microscopic components. These viruses, inoffensive to the human body, were created to serve as microscopic assembly blocks. Initially, they were used for creating a new type of fiber having the same properties as nylon. Because this didn’t prove itself very useful, the researchers continued to modify the virus until it attached itself to various materials used for making the batteries electrodes, transistors and solar panels. This new technology will be used for making new types of products based on the interleaving of virus-created fibers in very thin and flexible structures. This way they could make flexible batteries embedded in your clothing, for example.
The same principle can be used for creating clothing articles that can work as solar batteries for powering the user’s devices. On of the possible military applications could be the making of an uniform capable to detect various chemical substances.
Self-assembly is one of the fundamental problems of nanotechnology. You have to make individual groups of uncooperative atoms to form functional structures. The proof that this phenomena is possible is nature itself, where life exists by transforming organic molecules into very complex biological machines.
The researchers intend to create programmable DNA sequences that can be integrated into the DNA of the virus. In this way you could manipulate any element of the periodic element for creating complex structures on a nanometric scale.