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Virus-based Piezoelectric Energy Generation

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

Researchers at Berkeley Lab have demonstrated that the piezoelectric and liquid-crystalline properties of a modified virus, such as a recombinant M13 bacteriophage (phage), can be used to generate electrical energy. Using piezoresponse force microscopy, they characterized the structure-dependent piezoelectric properties of the phage at the molecular level and then showed that self-assembled thin films of phage can exhibit piezoelectric strengths of up to 7.8 pm V−1. They also demonstrated that it is possible to modulate the dipole strength of the phage, hence tuning the piezoelectric response, by genetically engineering the major coat proteins of the phage. Finally, they developed a phage-based piezoelectric generator that produces up to 6 nA of current and 400 mV of potential and used it to operate a liquid-crystal display.


Piezoelectric materials can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy, and piezoelectric devices made of a variety of inorganic materials and organic polymers have been demonstrated. However, synthesizing such materials often requires toxic starting compounds, harsh conditions and/or complex procedures. It has been shown that hierarchically organized natural materials such as bones, collagen fibrils, and peptide nanotubes, can display piezoelectric properties. Because biotechnology techniques enable large-scale production of genetically modified phages, phage-based piezoelectric materials potentially offer a simple and environmentally friendly approach to piezoelectric energy generation.

  • Renewable source of energy
  • Does not rely on heavy metals
  • Overcomes lack of cost effective fabrication and control methods to utilize biopiezoelectricity
  • Environmentally friendly fabrication method
Applications and Industries
  • Wireless communication
  • Wearable electronic devices
  • Other energy harvesting applications
More Information

Lee, B. Y., Zhang, J., Zueger, C., Chung, W.J., Yoo, S.Y.,Wang, E., Meyer, J., Rashesh, R., Lee, S.W. "Virus-based Piezoelectric Energy Generation," Nature Nanotechnology, 7, 351-356 (2012).

Krotz, D. "Berkeley Lab Scientists Generate Electricity from Viruses," Berkeley Lab News Center, May 13, 2012.

Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
IB 3128PrototypeAvailable12/18/201312/18/2013

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