Are viruses the way to green manufacturing?

Professor Angela Belcher at MIT is driven to solve "important problems: energy, healthcare, water."  Her work has led to "efficient solar cells and powerful batteries (that she hopes one day will be good enough to run her car); a possibly cheaper, greener way of producing plastics; and a potentially better way to peer into deeply buried tumours in the breast and abdomen. This summer her lab started a water purification project."

Her lab is also using viruses to develop and manufacture novel materials.  By genetically modifying a billion viruses she has identified a handful that express proteins which bind to specific elements.  For example, she has created a few viruses that can combine methane and oxygen to produce ethylene at room temperature, using significantly less energy than current processes.  The viruses are not present in the manufactured product.

Belcher's approach speeds up the process of evolution and also builds on the kind of manufacturing processes that the abalone shell uses to create a shell that is "3,000 times stronger than chalk, which is its chemical equivalent."

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