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Viruses Boost Performance of Lithium-Air Battery Used In Electric Cars

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the go-get-a-sick-kid-to-cough-on-your-battery dept.

Biotech 66

rtoz writes "MIT researchers have found that adding genetically modified viruses to the production of nanowires will boost the performance of lithium-air battery used in electric cars. The key to their work was to increase the surface area of the wire, thus increasing the area where electrochemical activity takes place during charging or discharging of the battery (abstract). The increase in surface area produced by their method can provide a big advantage in lithium-air batteries' rate of charging and discharging. Unlike conventional fabrication methods, which involve energy-intensive high temperatures and hazardous chemicals, this process can be carried out at room temperature using a water-based process."

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66 comments

Viral Batteries (2, Funny)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 8 months ago | (#45417591)

That would be sick!

Re:Viral Batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45417625)

I saw a Nova episode on PBS where someone has made just that.

Re:Viral Batteries (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45417833)

I am the first of three legendary magical pedophiles! Bow down to my greatness, you insolent Slashdotters!

Re:Viral Batteries (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 8 months ago | (#45422919)

So when the car does produce exhust; how does the driver apply the tissue?

Re:Viral Batteries (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45417641)

Only problem is when you get into an accident you get AIDS.

Re:Viral Batteries (1)

no1nose (993082) | about 8 months ago | (#45418247)

HIV? Or full blown AIDS?

Re:Viral Batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45422239)

HIV? Or full blown AIDS?

Just HIV. Full-blown AIDS only occurs with German cars.

Re:Viral Batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45422407)

Band aids.

Re:Viral Batteries (2)

bob_super (3391281) | about 8 months ago | (#45418233)

What's the performance of that Tesla when you have McAfee running on the battery?

Re:Viral Batteries (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 8 months ago | (#45418319)

Ha. Might also need to take its temperature.....might be 'burning up' with fever.

Cool. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45417603)

Just Don't Let Those Fuckers Out Of The Petri Dish, eh.

This would be a big thing (2)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 8 months ago | (#45417631)

Heh, big thing when it's a virus. I'm hilarious. OK but lithium-air batteries that don't explode in the rain would be quite something. Not only would they make electric cars more viable, but it might even make things like electric planes much more practical and long-ranged. Big ifs, though. It's hard to beat kerosene and turbines for raw power, efficiency and range.

Re:This would be a big thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45418803)

No it wouldn't.

This only affects charge and discharge. Not capacity.

Reading comprehension is an invaluable skill.

Re:This would be a big thing (2)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 8 months ago | (#45418935)

Yes, the charging of LITHIUM-AIR batteries, which would have a much higher capacity by weight. See, there are NO such batteries right now. Yup, reading sure is fun.

Re:This would be a big thing (2)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 8 months ago | (#45420449)

OK but lithium-air batteries that don't explode in the rain would be quite something.

Now they won't explode in the rain, they'll merely sneeze...

What could possibly go wrong... (3, Funny)

schwep (173358) | about 8 months ago | (#45417643)

Fred: Dude, where's your car?
Sam: I don't know - I parked it hear like 2 hours ago.
Fred: Did you patch against the latest virus they found?
Sam: What?
Fred: Yeah, it caused the batteries to eat all the metal parts.
Sam: Crap.
Fred: Now if only you could download a copy of the car...

Re:What could possibly go wrong... (4, Funny)

dgatwood (11270) | about 8 months ago | (#45417771)

You wouldn't download a car. You wouldn't download a handbag. ...

Re:What could possibly go wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45418009)

but, I would download the plans to make either

Re:What could possibly go wrong... (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about 8 months ago | (#45418535)

You wouldn't download a car.

Hell, yes I would!

I honestly thought..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45417683)

......it was a virus in the car CPU :-)

Lithium and water? (-1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 8 months ago | (#45417707)

It's a water based process? And that's somehow safer? I don't think so.

Um... I thought Lithium and water where pretty unfriendly neighbors... Same kind of reaction you get when you get Sodium and water together.

This would not be a good thing..

Re:Lithium and water? (0)

Salafrance Underhill (2947653) | about 8 months ago | (#45417735)

Would you like to cook some quality methamphetamine at my sekrit underground lab?

Re:Lithium and water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45417781)

Pure lithium metal reacts with water. The lithium salts used in batteries, not so much.

Re:Lithium and water? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45418327)

The viruses were used to make manganese oxide (MnO) nanowires, which acted as the cathode material. The catalysts, electrolyte, and lithium comes in later.

Re:Lithium and water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45418567)

This is to make materials for the positive electrode side. All the water would need to be removed before actually putting the battery together. In a lithium-air battery the negative electrode is lithium metal and water would be a problem

Please make it stop! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45417775)

http://slashdot.org/index2.pl?fhfilter=mit+viruses+batteries

Seriously.

Thank you.

Re:Please make it stop! (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 8 months ago | (#45417801)

Good catch. I guess we do this again in a year and a half.

Re:Please make it stop! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45417873)

This is how you know you are on real /. not GCHQ /.

Re:Please make it stop! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45419487)

That doesn't tell you anything. Either the NSA is incompetent, in which case it gets dupes, or the NSA is competent in which case they know if they don't post dupes, people will get suspicious.

You should start to worry if my post suddenly changes so it's talking about, say... the NSA instead of NSA.

Re:Please make it stop! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45420057)

Should I worry if a black cat walks by then another one just like it?

Re:Please make it stop! (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 8 months ago | (#45418205)

They say we're young and we don't know...

Re:Please make it stop! (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 8 months ago | (#45418271)

Well played. Well played indeed.

Practical use?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45418047)

Also, while this material was successfully tested through 50 cycles of charging and discharging, for practical use a battery must be capable of withstanding thousands of these cycles.

Show me a rechargeable battery I can buy now that will withstand thousands of cycles. I've got a box full of dead rechargeables that maybe lasted 100 cycles, many probably less than 50. Battery manufacturers have been promising charging cycles since the dawn of the rechargeable battery and have failing to deliver for an equally long time.

For practical use, even 50 cycles can be enough if it means 3 times more storage density.

Re:Practical use?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45418087)

If one managed the state of charge (SoC) properly, then many of the newer lithium ion chemistries can handle thousands of charge cycles. It is key to manage operating temperature, charging temperature, and avoid charging too high and discharging too low. Most currently available lithium ion batteries are designed for 300 charge cycles even in 100% charge/discharge cycles. Apple's batteries in laptops and phones is supposed to be managed for 1000 charge cycles or so. Electric vehicles with lithium ion batteries and battery management systems should last 1,500 to 4,000 charge cycles, depending on use, the exact chemistry, and the battery management design.

A lot of people kill their batteries by discharging all the way and then leaving it for some period of time which causes permanent damage.

Re:Practical use?? (2)

zippthorne (748122) | about 8 months ago | (#45418917)

I wonder if you could use a System on a Chip (SoC) to manage your state of charge....

Re:Practical use?? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 8 months ago | (#45419035)

I wonder why they don't put the minimum threshold higher on batteries. I've heard that completely discharging lithium batteries is really bad for them. But then why not just build in some extra capacity into the battery, and have it refuse to run once it reaches 20%. In certain devices like tablets, where the battery is non-replaceable, I'd rather have an 8 hour battery that lasted 4000 cycles than a 10 hour battery that only lasted 6 hours after the first year because I ran it down to empty a few times a week.

Re:Practical use?? (4, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | about 8 months ago | (#45420051)

I wonder why they don't put the minimum threshold higher on batteries. I've heard that completely discharging lithium batteries is really bad for them. But then why not just build in some extra capacity into the battery, and have it refuse to run once it reaches 20%.

That's actually what modern hybrid and EV battery management systems do. They also stop charging at about 80% of max capacity, because it's the top and bottom 20% of charge states where the maximum wear is. So a 100 kwh 1k charge cycle battery might be exactly identical to a 80 kwh 4k cycle battery.

It's generally not done with consumer electronics because they only expect them to last 1-2 years and weight/cost are bigger concerns than longevity.

It should be noted that when they talk about X numbers of 'charge cycles' it's from 0% to 100% even when it comes to applications where they really expect lots of partial charges - cell phones, EVs, and such. So if you charge it up 50%, then 20%, then 30%, that adds up to 1 cycle. Though if they're being honest they rate the expected cycles by the expected duty cycle - LiIon 'likes' partial charges, NiCad doesn't. Lead-Acid doesn't like being discharged, but tolerates being fully or even over charged the best out of the common chemistries.

Re:Practical use?? (1)

Salafrance Underhill (2947653) | about 8 months ago | (#45421027)

It's done. My antediluvian Nokia C2 has a cheat code which allows you to force the battery management software to give the entire charge, not just that fraction offered to maximise the number of charge cycles.

Re:Practical use?? (1)

Entropius (188861) | about 8 months ago | (#45422937)

That would be useful to have on all phones: a "I am doing XYZ important task, please let me have that last 10%; yes, I know it'll wear out faster, thanks, but grandma's in the hospital".

Welcome to the FUTURE! (2)

dbIII (701233) | about 8 months ago | (#45419829)

Show me a rechargeable battery I can buy now that will withstand thousands of cycles

My phone has one. Hey 1970 dude, if you can wait until 2010 you will be able to get the same thing in the exciting world of tomorrow!

Re:Practical use?? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 8 months ago | (#45422535)

Sanyo Eneloop NiMH batteries last 3000 cycles retaining 80% of their charge capacity, and will maintain an 80% charge when left idle for 12 months.

But when will we see it? (4, Interesting)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 8 months ago | (#45418131)

Granted, Lithium ion batteries have seen a number of enhancements over the years, but new super-ultra battery tech is starting to look like fusion - always around the corner. A battery that is all the way around a major step forward from what we have now could change the world overnight. But every time I read about the next big thing in batteries, I just sigh... I realize that continued articles means continued research and development is going - but I am ready for my super batteries now. I know I can't hurry science along, but I am eagerly and impatiently waiting for the day I wake up to the commercial realization of the mythical wonder-battery.

Re:But when will we see it? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45419097)

Instead what you've gotten is annual 10-15% capacity/density improvements along with similar cost reductions. If that pace can continue for another decade or two, you'll have your super batteries, without ever getting that huge leap forward.

News just in (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 8 months ago | (#45419869)

but new super-ultra battery tech is starting to look like fusion - always around the corner.

Product development takes time. It's the engineering and even marketing that takes time a decade or more after the science is done.

Re:News just in (1)

boristdog (133725) | about 8 months ago | (#45423351)

Manufacturing large quantities efficiently also takes a LOT of time and money. First you need someone to front you $XXX millions (or $X billions) for a factory unless you can shoehorn it into a pre-existing industrial process. Then it may only take $XX millions.

So tell me why ... (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 8 months ago | (#45418231)

Unlike conventional fabrication methods, which involve energy-intensive high temperatures and hazardous chemicals, this process can be carried out at room temperature using a water-based process."

Pray tell, why these hazardous biota are better than hazardous chemicals. What can go wrong?

Re:So tell me why ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45418457)

Because hazardous biota are far more fragile and thus degradable. You can kill them with an autoclave. Try doing that to hazardous chemicals.

Re:So tell me why ... (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 8 months ago | (#45418877)

But hazardous chemicals do not reproduce on their own, mutate on their own, they don't have an innate mechanism to go forth and multiply by commandeering resources from nature...

Re:So tell me why ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45418987)

One mutation...

Re:So tell me why ... (1)

Entropius (188861) | about 8 months ago | (#45422943)

If all it took was one mutation to turn the tobacco mosaic virus into something that could infect humans readily and virulently, Nature would have done it already.

She is very good at optimizing things to reproduce. You're unlikely to make a superbug that She hasn't already tried out.

Re:So tell me why ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45419753)

But hazardous chemicals do not reproduce on their own, mutate on their own, they don't have an innate mechanism to go forth and multiply by commandeering resources from nature...

You do realise just how ridiculous that is, right?

Viruses and bacteria are everywhere and mutate constantly. They are not making these things compatible with humans so they are not more dangerous than any of the other million viruses you're exposed to on a daily basis. Unless you're an android full of wires, that is, instead of a human, then there might be a problem.

In any case, this is a production process, the finished cables will be 'dead' anyway.

Re:So tell me why ... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 8 months ago | (#45420063)

These are viruses, they can't reproduce on their own. Plus, well, 'Tobacco Patia' virus isn't something that's going to be crossing over to affect humans anytime soon. The tobacco lobby might be a touch worried...

More seriously, we've used biota for industrial production for centuries with limited issues.

Re:So tell me why ... (1)

LaughingRadish (2694765) | about 8 months ago | (#45420319)

How'd you get the idea that a tobacco virus was involved here? The article says "M13". If you check with Google and Wikipedia, you'll find that it's a filimentous bacteriophage (it infects bacteria). And about committing sabotage on tobacco farmers, most tobacco diseases affect many other members of the nightshade family. Two important ones are potatoes and tomatoes.

Re:So tell me why ... (2)

cusco (717999) | about 8 months ago | (#45420425)

Some of the other groups are using tobacco mosaic virus, it's likely that Firethorn confused the projects.

Re:So tell me why ... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 8 months ago | (#45421359)

Yep, got them confused.

MIT PR is becoming embarassing (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 8 months ago | (#45418253)

MIT's PR operation is becoming embarrassing. At least once every two months, there's some announcement about "nano" something that's going to change the world. Then we never hear about it again. You look at the details, and it turns out somebody did something at lab scale which might possibly someday be useful, if there weren't other ways to do the same thing already.

Re:MIT PR is becoming embarassing (2)

kermidge (2221646) | about 8 months ago | (#45421229)

True that, but by the same token we at least know that some people are doing interesting, nifty, and potentially useful stuff, along with just good science and engineering - asking and trying to answer questions and advancing knowledge in the process.

Re:MIT PR is becoming embarassing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45423666)

MIT's PR operation is becoming embarrassing. At least once every two months, there's some announcement about "nano" something that's going to change the world. Then we never hear about it again. You look at the details, and it turns out somebody did something at lab scale which might possibly someday be useful, if there weren't other ways to do the same thing already.

You never hear about it again after it changes the world because the radical new technology becomes boring and mundane. You have become so accustomed to the effects of Moore's Law that you forget that modern electronics wouldn't just be hard to make a decade ago, they would be impossible. When you expect the miracle, why are you surprised that the miracle doesn't stay newsworthy for long.

In notebooks too (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 8 months ago | (#45418313)

The BSOD is pretty efficient in energy consumption.

Re:In notebooks too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45421891)

I think the power management works better when you don't have a BSOD. So, I don't think BSOD is that efficient.

Tesla PR stress leave (0)

Tablizer (95088) | about 8 months ago | (#45418895)

Tesla has enough PR problems with the fire rumors. Now they have to explain virus-infected batteries to the public.

How do the viruses reproduce? (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about 8 months ago | (#45419173)

They can't infect lithium. What's going on here?

See, Teslas are dangeous... (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 8 months ago | (#45419279)

Not only do they burst in to flame but their batteries are infected with viruses!
(This message brought to you by a consortium of oil companies)

for my next trick.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45423037)

And I can transmute base metal to Gold in a atomic reactor.

The question is will this be more than a limited laboratory trick and done on anything largescale an cheaper than the current nanotube producing methods which are also being improved.

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