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January 19, 2007

MIT Researchers create 'tiny batteries with viruses'

Writing about web page http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2006/virus-battery.html

Researchers build tiny batteries with viruses

April 7, 2006

MIT scientists have harnessed the construction talents of tiny viruses to build ultra-small "nanowire" structures for use in very thin lithiuvirusm-ion batteries.

By manipulating a few genes inside these viruses, the team was able to coax the organisms to grow and self-assemble into a functional electronic device.

The goal of the work, led by MIT Professors Angela Belcher, Paula Hammond and Yet-Ming Chiang, is to create batteries that cram as much electrical energy into as small or lightweight a package as possible. The batteries they hope to build could range from the size of a grain of rice up to the size of existing hearing aid batteries.

Specifically, they manipulated the genes in a laboratory strain of a common virus, making the microbes collect exotic materials -- cobalt oxide and gold. [...] The viruses then align themselves on the polymer surface to form ultrathin wires. Each virus, and thus the wire, is only 6 nanometers (6 billionths of a meter) in diameter, and 880 nanometers in length.

[...]

Equally important, the reactions needed to create nanowires occur at normal room temperatures and pressures, so there is no need for expensive pressure-cooking technology to get the job done.

"The nanoscale materials we've made supply two to three times the electrical energy for their mass or volume, compared to previous materials," the team reported.

This seems to be one of the most interesting developments in nanotechnology over the past few years, at least from a consumer's point of view. I know that they've been investigating the medicinal purposes of nanotechnology (for example, experiments with bacteriophages in immunology) as well as the possibility of using organic material as computer memory, but this is the first I've heard of nanotech batteries, not to mention successful outcomes.

It's especially exciting for me as a consumer and a consummate gamer  because of the fantastic potential in reducing the weight of portable objects whilst increasing battery life. It could do wonders for the world of portable gaming, for photography, for portable DVD players... the possible applications make me shudder with excitement!

It will be interesting to see what the practical cons of these batteries will be. Any microbiologists/techies want to further enlighten me?


December 31, 2006

Happy New Year !

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Well folks, it’s already been new year in China for seven and a half hours. Celebrated it with a little party in my residence followed by a walk in the freezing cold. My roommate decided to come back about 11.30pm, having drunk God-knows how much of his Korean alcohol, taken off his trousers and flopped into his bed. So the countdown came, New Year arrived to the sound of a few dozen people of several nationalities all cheering ”三 二 一。。。新年快乐!” (San, Er, Yi… Xin Nian Kuai Le! – 3 – 2 – 1 Happy New Year!) Good fun.

The temperature at night these days has been around -6-11 degrees, sometimes colder depending on the wind strength. So I walked out in my thick, heavy jacket and started making the phone calls and writing text messages and also just appreciating the beauty of the campus. It’s as scenic as Warwick but is now decked out in snow. And watching groups of people pass, rambling in Chinese, wishing one another a Happy New Year – it was all very surreal. Gorgeous.

So while I was walking, I got to thinking about when I was younger and spending a couple of New Year Eves up in Scotland with the family. I’ve never been terribly attached to my Scottish half for one reason or another but I always used to love the Scottish New Year celebrations. It didn’t have that sort of commercial, artificial feeling to New Year I’ve always found in London. The celebrations always seemed so much more genuine.

And so we get onto Auld Lang Syne, written (or gathered!) by the Pride of Scotland™ Rabbie Burns and adopted as a New Year Hymn by most English speakers and various others (I think South Korea even had it as its National Anthem at one point, with Korean words of course). It is, of course, a beautiful tune, full of a hopeful and happy nostalgia (yes I am aware of the etymology all you classicists!). And here’s the key part for me:

And ther’s a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll tak’ a right good willie-waught,,
For auld lang syne.

So Happy New Year everyone! Here’s hoping that this year turns out better for you all than last, انشاءالله


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