20.109(S16):Module 3

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20.109(S16): Laboratory Fundamentals of Biological Engineering

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Module 3

Lecturer: Angela Belcher
Instructors: Noreen Lyell, Leslie McClain and Maxine Jonas


“Invention” is a wonderful word, derived from words meaning “scheme” and “a finding out.” Inventors draw on materials provided by the natural world, refining and combining them in insightful ways, to make something useful. In this experimental module we will invent materials by manipulating biological systems, namely the bacteriophage M13. We will use a slightly modified phage to build a battery cathode. The phage themselves do the building by acting as a template for biomineralization and the resulting material will be used as the cathodes in a coin-style lithium-ion battery. Drawing on the rich stockroom of biological elements and a good but incomplete understanding of their behavior, your goal is to assess how the amount of phage impacts the performance of your battery.

This module has been developed thanks to the generous time and thoughtful efforts of several Belcher lab members, in particular Dr. Maryam Moradi and George Sun.

Schematic diagram of lithium-ion battery constructed with phage mineralized cathode

Lab links: day by day

M3D1: Growth of phage materials
M3D2: Phage nanowires
M3D3: Cathode construction
M3D5: Battery assembly and testing
M3D6: Research proposal presentations

TA notes, M3


  1. Check out this CNN videotape of Angie Belcher teaching President Obama about this work!
  2. Biologically activated noble metal alloys at the nanoscale: for lithium ion battery anodes
    NanoLetters 2010
    Yun Jung Lee, Youjin Lee, Dahyun Oh, Tiffany Chen, Gerbrand Ceder, and Angela M. Belcher