Scientists claim to have developed a unique technique to harness electricity from a bacteria eating virus to power your mobile phones. A team at the University of California, Berkeley are using the virus known as M13 bacteriophage to replace toxic elements used to charge the cell phones. The virus possesses a property known as piezoelectricity, which means it can translate mechanical energy into electrical energy, the 'Daily Mail' reported. Researchers believe the discovery could pave way for mobile phones that can be charged while you walk and replace the toxic piezoelectric elements already used in mobile phones. Most mobile phone microphones are piezoelectric because they need to convert energy from sound waves into electrical output that can be transmitted and then translated back into sound waves at the other end of the line. These piezoelectric components are made out of heavy, toxic metals such as lead and cadmium, according to bioengineer Seung-Wuk Lee. M13 bacteriophage has the ability to generate electricity when compressed without the involvement of any toxic chemicals. Lee and his colleagues found that the pencil-shaped M13 virus is potentially a perfect energy source because the virus is not harmful to humans. It is also cheap and easy to make to the extent that scientists can get trillions of viruses from a single flask of infected bacteria. To improve the electricity generating power of M13, Lee's team tweaked the amino acid content of the virus's outer protein coat by adding four negatively charged glutamate molecules. "This will bring a lot of excitement to the field," said Zhong Lin Wang, an engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "By utilizing the properties of these biomaterials, we can find unique applications in the future," Wang said.
M13 is a filamentous bacteriophage composed of circular single stranded DNA (ssDNA) which is 6407 nucleotides long encapsulated in approximately 2700 copies of the major coat protein P8, and capped with 5 copies of two different minor coat proteins (P9, P6, P3) on the ends. The minor coat protein P3 attaches to the receptor at the tip of the F pilus of the host Escherichia coli. Infection with filamentous phages is not lethal; however, the infection causes turbid plaques in E. coli. It is a non-lytic virus. However a decrease in the rate of cell growth is seen in the infected cells. M13 plasmids are used for many recombinant DNA processes, and the virus has also been studied for its uses in nanostructures and nanotechnology.