When it comes to building better batteries, building electrodes with greater surface area is key, and scientists are looking to exotic methods to attract the tiny particles they need. We've already seen graphene
and carbon nanotubes
soak up those electrons, but the University of Maryland has another idea -- they're using the Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) to generate usable patterns of nanorods on the surface of existing metal electrodes. By simply modifying the germ and letting it do its thing, then coating the surface with a conductive film, they're generating ten times the energy capacity of a standard lithium-ion battery while simultaneously rendering the nasty vegetarian bug inert.
Meanwhile, the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) at Sandia Labs was more curious how these tiny charges actually work without confusing the forest for the trees, so to speak, so a team of scientists set about constructing the world's smallest battery. Using a single tin dioxide nanowire as anode, a chunk of lithium cobalt dioxide as cathode, and piping some liquid electrolyte in between, they took a microscopic video of the charging process. See it in all its grey, goopy glory right after the break.