Tobacco Virus Could Extend Battery Life by 1,000 Percent

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If you're a tobacco plant, the tobacco mosaic virus is no friend. But if you're a battery-burning human being, it could soon turn out to be the best thing ever to come from a tobacco field. Someday your iPad battery may last a year.

According to Wikipedia, the Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) is a “positive-sense single stranded RNA virus that infects plants, especially tobacco and other members of the family Solanaceae. The infection causes characteristic patterns (mottling and discoloration) on the leaves (hence the name). ”

Sounds like a problem for plants, but it may turn out to be a huge positive for batteries. According to this post on fastmoney.com, the TMV virus could extend the life of lithium batteries 10-fold…

The idea is that TMV nanorods are bound to the electrodes in a lithium cell–without the need for any bonding agent–and automagically increase the surface area of the electrode. This is a critical matter in battery design, since it affects how much electrical energy the battery can hold, and TMV’s benefits mean a similar cell can hold up to ten times more charge than a more conventional one.

This has all sorts of implications for mobile technology. Imagine every lithium battery in every mobile device you own lasting up to ten times longer. That would mean Apple’s new MacBook Airs could hang on in standby mode for 10 months, and Amazon’s Kindles may only require charging once every year. Smartphones could have useful call times extending up to a week…

Researchers at the University of Maryland are the ones working on the breakthrough – from their press release

The use of the TMV virus in fabricating batteries can be scaled up to meet industrial production needs. “The process is simple, inexpensive, and renewable,” Culver adds. “On average, one acre of tobacco can produce approximately 2,100 pounds of leaf tissue, yielding approximately one pound of TMV per pound of infected leaves,” he explains.

So, as it turns out, tobacco’s not so bad after all.  It just needed to be taken out of lungs and put into cell phones.

Stacy Johnson

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