Viral device

Published: Saturday 15 April 2006

Chemical deposits on cowpea vi Using microbes in nano-electronics

A virus that infects the cowpea plant has been found useful in making tiny electronic devices and biosensors. When ferrocene, an organo-metallic chemical, was deposited on the cowpea mosaic virus, it turned into a capacitor of nano-scale dimensions, according to researchers at the John Innes Centre in the UK.

"This is an exciting discovery in bionanotechnology as it allows us to use plant viruses to produce electronically active nanoparticles of defined size," says Nicole Steinmetz, the lead author of the study. The findings, published in Small (Vol 2, No 4, February 2006), indicate that a similar effect is possible with many other chemicals as well.

The scientists say most plant viruses are harmless to humans. Cowpea mosaic virus was chosen for the study because its structure makes it an ideal scaffold for depositing various chemicals to induce different characteristics. Such nano-scale devices have a high potential for application in medical and industrial fields, Steinmetz said.

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