A group of researchers led by Professor Reza Ghodssi at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering, and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, are using the properties of TMV (Tobacco mosaic virus) to help create smaller, more efficient lithium ion batteries.

The virus? TMV is a rod-shaped plant virus that attacks tobacco, tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetation. According to the university's press release, the researchers, "mofify the TMV rods to bind perpendicularly to the metallic surface of a battery electrode and arrange the rods in intricate and orderly patterns on the electrode. Then, they coat the rods with a conductive thin film that acts as a current collector and finally the battery's active material that participates in the electrochemical reactions."

The result? Bigger electrode surface area and an increase in storage capacity. This allows a faster charge/discharge time, and gives up to 10 times increased capacity in comparison to your regular Li-Ion battery.

The usage? Professor Ghodssi provides two examples: the first shows the creation of a very miniscule battey that can be used to power wireless sensors networks. These sensors can monitor homeland security, agriculture, and the surrounding environment. A different proejct that Ghodssi's team is working on, focuses on creating increased-sensitivity explosive detection sensors, by using TMV to bind to TNT. (Author's note: Ironically, those two uses seem quite opposite from each other.)

No tomatoes were harmed in the making of this blog post. However, regular Li-Ion batteries are scared to go out of business: adopt one today (not for free) at ebatts.com.

Source: UMD's press release

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