Researchers are putting viruses to work in the lab, using them to build tiny devices that gather energy from mechanical forces, like the press of a finger, to run a small liquid-crystal display.

“More research is needed, but our work is a promising first step toward the development of personal power generators, actuators for use in nano-devices, and other devices based on viral electronics,” study researcher Seung-Wuk Lee, at the University of California — Berkeley, said in a statement.

Scientists at the US Department of Energy‘s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have harnessed the energy producing power of a harmless phage virus.

“The scientists coated a postage-stamp-sized electrode with specially engineered, harmless viruses that, when tapped, generated enough electricity to power a small LCD display.”

The power produced by the resulting viruses didn’t generate a huge amount of electricity. In fact they produced, “just six nanoamperes, the equivalent of about one-quarter the voltage supplied by a AAA battery — but it was a start.”

“We’re now working on ways to improve on this proof-of-principle demonstration,” Lee said. “Because the tools of biotechnology enable large-scale production of genetically modified viruses, piezoelectric materials based on viruses could offer a simple route to novel microelectronics in the future.”

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