A genetically engineered virus efficiently splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.
A team of MIT researchers used a modified virus as a kind of biological scaffold that can assemble the nanoscale components needed to split the hydrogen and oxygen atoms of a water molecule.
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 vehicles or heating.
The team, led by Angela Belcher, 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.