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Small-Scale Energy Storage Devices Using the Tobacco Mosaic Virus

Principal Investigator(s): 


The goal of this project is the development of small-scale energy storage devices with nanostructured electrodes and catalysts using a biological nanomaterial template, the Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). The TMV is a high aspect ratio cylindrical plant nanostructure measuring 300 nm in length with a diameter of 18 nm. Genetically modifying the virus to display various functional groups within its coat proteins facilitates enhanced metallization in electroless solutions and self-assembly onto various surfaces. This makes the TMV an inexpensive and versatile template for the synthesis of high surface area nanomaterials, which are key components for next-generation highperformance microbatteries and micro-fuel cells.

Utilizing this technology, researchers at the MEMS Sensors and Actuators Laboratory (MSAL) in direct collaboration with Dr. Jim Culver’s group at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) have demonstrated successful operation of microfabricated nickel-zinc microbatteries with nanostructured cathode electrodes for up to thirty cycles of operation. The TMV modified devices exhibited a six-fold increase in battery capacity compared to planar electrode geometries, showing the advantage of using high surface area nanomaterials. Current work at MSAL and UMBI is focused on integrating the TMV biofabrication process with traditional micromachining for the development of novel material coatings as well as more sophisticated, high surface area microbattery architectures. Additionally, in a recently initiated project, Professors Ghodssi, Culver and Wang (Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Maryland) are working together towards the implementation of micro fuel cells using TMV-structured catalysts.

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