By unleashing a genetically modified virus onto microscopic electrode wires, researchers from MIT have shown that the performance of lithium-air batteries can be significantly improved -- a remarkable breakthrough that could revolutionize the way our electric devices are powered.
Indeed, lithium-air batteries have generated considerable buzz over the years because of the way they can increase power without having to increase weight, an attribute that could lead to electric cars with much greater driving range. But engineers have struggled to to create the durable materials required for the batteries' electrodes, and increase the number of charging-cycles the batteries can withstand.
To overcome these limitations, researchers from MIT demonstrated that by adding bioengineered viruses to nanowires during the production stage -- tiny electrode wires about the width of a red blood cell -- some of these problems could be alleviated.
This virus, called M13, works by increasing the surface area of the wire, which in turn increases the area where electrochemical activity takes place when batteries are charged or discharged.