2013 R&D 100 Winner
LBL Bacteriophage Power GeneratorThe worldwide market for portable electronic devices is quickly growing. These devices are predominantly battery-driven, and a challenge looms for maintaining, charging and disposing of these millions of batteries. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Bacteriophage Power Generator offers a potential alternative. The technology relies on a bacterial virus that exhibits piezoelectric properties. The M13 bacteriophage (or phage) infects bacteria only, is harmless to humans and is composed of DNA. Proteins encapsulate the DNA and form elongated piezoelectric nanofibers.

Researchers genetically modified the DNA structure of the virus by adding four negatively charged amino-acid residues to one end of the helical proteins that coat the virus. These residues increase the charge difference between the proteins’ positive and negative ends, boosting the voltage produced by the virus. The viruses spontaneously organize into a multi-layered film, which is sandwiched between two gold-plated electrodes and connected by wires to external devices. When pressure is applied to the phage-based generator, it produces up to 6 nA of current and 400 mV of potential—two-orders-of-magnitude higher in power than other commercial generators.

Bacteriophage power generator

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Univ. of California, Berkeley

Development Team

Bacteriophage Power Generator development team (l-r): Byung-Yang Lee, Seung-Wuk Lee, R. Ramesh.


The Bacteriophage Power Generator Development Team
Seung-Wuk Lee, Principal Developer, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Byung-Yang Lee, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
R. Ramesh, Univ. of California, Berkeley