Berkeley Lab researchers continue to boggle my mind. Most recently, Seung-Wuk Lee came up with the idea of using a virus (true!) to create electricity. Granted, it’s not a lot of power, yet, but you can see the promise there. The materials might one day coat your shoes or laptop. As you walk or work, energy could generate power for your smartphone or iPod, or, keep the laptop going when you’re on the road and nary an outlet in sight.
“It works by tapping a finger on a postage stamp-sized electrode coated with specially engineered viruses. The viruses convert the force of the tap into an electric charge.
Their generator is the first to produce electricity by harnessing the piezoelectric properties of a biological material. Piezoelectricity is the accumulation of a charge in a solid in response to mechanical stress,” said the news release.
KGO-TV Channel 7’s Jonathan Bloom took a look at the virus=electricity equation:
We all know electricity is important, and as we peer into the crystal ball the future we see looks like it’s going to need a lot more of it…electric vehicles, demanding appliances and buildings, all crying out for a superhero to save the day.
Where to start? One effort is the newly established battery consortium that might become the brain trust of everything batteries. Led by Berkeley Lab, along with the California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF), the consortium’s name is CalCharge. Get it? CalCharge.
The goal is to unite the Bay Area’s growing number of battery technology companies, academic institutions, and government resources, creating a regional ecosystem to,
“…jumpstart a new era of battery technologies, but also help ensure that U.S. companies succeed in this highly competitive environment,” CalCharge announcement.
So, here’s what we know:
• Hybrid and electric vehicles now make up more than 2% of the U.S. auto market, and it’s even higher in Europe and Asia,
• Local VC investment in battery companies exceeds $100M,
• and, more than $46M is being invested by the Department of Energy into battery innovation.
“There’s a lot of battery know-how in California, specifically the Bay Area, but technology startups need an ecosystem to thrive,” said Venkat Srinivasan, head of Berkeley Lab’s energy storage research program. “The Berkeley Lab battery program, long known for its deep expertise in solving the problems in advanced batteries, is ideally positioned to work with battery companies in the region.”
The Bay Area alone has more than 30 startups and larger companies focusing in this area. California had 258 patent filings between 2008 and 2010 for battery technology. No state is even close to that.
Companies joining CalCharge will send their researchers up to Berkeley Lab, giving them access to facilities like the Advanced Light Source and Molecular Foundry, and all the testing and diagnostic equipment that goes with that. Plus…
- Battery University: In-depth training courses on the latest developments in battery technology
- Market and Policy Seminars: Quarterly series of 3-hour education workshops on market and policy matters related to grid storage and electric vehicles
- Web Series: Webinars covering technical, market or policy developments related to storage
“We wanted to start CalCharge because we know that emerging energy storage companies are facing a complex market and major technical challenges,” said Doug Davenport, co-lead of the CalCharge initiative at Berkeley Lab.
From the Lab’s perspective, working side-by-side with private industry will give its researchers a better perspective on the needs of the public and industry. Are we on the right track with our research? This will tell us.
While we can’t promise a virus-powered car anytime soon, this new battery coalition should get us headed in the right direction, towards less-expensive and more sustainable technologies. Who knows what the “power” of numbers will help us achieve?
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