London, April 12 (ANI): A team of MIT researchers has genetically modified a virus that can exploit sunlight to split water into oxygen and hydrogen.
Splitting water is one way to solve the basic problem of solar energy: It's only available when the sun shines.
By using sunlight to make hydrogen from water, the hydrogen can then be stored and used at any time to generate electricity using a fuel cell, or to make liquid fuels for cars and trucks.
Other researchers have made systems that use electricity, which can be provided by solar panels, to split water molecules, but the new biologically based system skips the intermediate steps and uses sunlight to power the reaction directly.
The team, led by Angela Belcher, the Germeshausen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering, engineered a common, harmless bacterial virus called M13 so that it would attract and bind with molecules of a catalyst (the team used iridium oxide) and a biological pigment (zinc porphyrins).
The viruses became wire-like devices that could very efficiently split the oxygen from water molecules.
The advance is described in a paper published on April 11 in Nature Nanotechnology. (ANI)