One of the world's most destructive naturally-occuring scourges, the Tobacco mosaic virus (or TMV) could be used in a near future to boost the capacity of Lithium Ion batteries by 10 times and even power Flash memory.
TMV's devastating impact on hundreds of plant species including tomatoes, has been documented, studied and evaluated for decades now but it's only recently that scientists have mulled potential usages for the virus.
The fact that TMV is very resistant, self-replicating, self-assembling and can bind to metal makes it the ideal candidate to be used in battery technology
It attaches itself to the electrodes in a Lithium cell perpendicularly, thereby increasing the surface area of the electrode and greatly improves the battery's capacity to store energy and allows for fast charge/discharge cycles.
And by then applying a very thin layer of conducting material, they render the virus harmless, therefore making virus-powered batteries safe to be used virtually everywhere.
Researchers reckon that batteries developed using that technology will have ten times the capacity of existing standard lithium-ion batteries; this means that a normal laptop could have a useful battery life of up to five days.
The implications are numerous; it paves the way for much smaller rechargeable batteries that can be used in devices like hearing aids or wireless sensor networks; more importantly though, end product is both lighter, stronger and likely to be less expensive than existing ones.
It also opens the door for more powerful uninterruptible power supplies, ultra thin batteries that are more robust and of all shapes and sizes.
Regular readers to Slashdot will remember back in 2006 that New Scientist published an article back then about how the same virus could be used to create a transistor with very fast switching speed, something which would have improved the access time several fold.
You can find more about how Tobacco Mosaic Virus can be produced and used here.