The name of MIT's Dr. Angela Belcher has popped up a couple of times here on WorldChanging. A 2004 MacArthur "genius grant" winner, she works on the integration of biological processes and nanoscale materials. Now we can learn a bit more about the work that she's been doing:
Copying how red abalone build their shells, Belcher and her team are developing a way to actually "grow" rechargeable batteries with the help of viruses — tiny microbes that multiply by infecting living cells. Their technique would take a matter of weeks, rather than the 15 years the red abalone needs to assemble a full-sized shell.
"We're forcing the viruses to interact with materials that they would never interact with, normally. So now the viruses are a template to actually grow that material… it incorporates these new materials into its coat surface," Belcher explains.
The ScienCentral article includes a video description of the project and interview with Dr. Belcher, as well as links to some of Dr. Belcher's recent publications, including a 2000 article in Nature.
There is essentially zero information about a nanoscale engineered battery in the article. All information I can find about that is contained in this one paragraph from Discover Magazine :
What is your focus right now?
Belcher: We have recently made the first virus-based rechargeable battery. We get really good energy density because our particles are really small. We have engineered the viruses so that each one is just about a micrometer long, has a thousand smaller particles on it, and can self-assemble. Battery stuff is happening quickly; this project is only one year old.
The article in the PNAS that is cited in the ScienCenter article is here:
Viral assembly of oriented quantum dot nanowires
This would be interesting to read, had it been published in a "open" scientific magazine:
Nano Letters, Programmable Assembly of Nanoarchitectures Using Genetically Engineered Viruses