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Now for the first time, scientists have built a piezoelectric device using biological materials — in this case, viruses. Future sneakers may come with a customized viral mat on the bottom, with millions of would-be pathogens working together to power your mp3 player.
Piezoelectrics use an accumulated charge in a solid material, which is generated in response to an applied stress. It holds promise for things like implantable medical devices, shoe-powered chargers and so on. Many new piezoelectrics use nano- or micro-structured materials that can be costly and toxic to work with, however. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory wanted to test viruses’ ability to work as power generators, to see whether they could serve as constantly regenerating sources of power.
What’s more, viruses can be useful construction workers. We have seen other researchers using them to build solar panels, for instance. This is partly because of viruses’ proclivity for self-arranging, which can eliminate some of the laborious assembly processes required for nanoscale engineering.
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