Virus Enabled Self-assembly of Nanocomposites for Highly Efficient Photovoltaic Devices

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Professor Angela Belcher
MIT Department of Materials Sciences and Engineering and Department of Biological Engineering
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Professor Paula Hammond
MIT Department of Chemical Engineering
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Xiangnan Dang
MIT Department of Materials Sciences and Engineering
Hyunjung Yi
MIT Department of Materials Sciences and Engineering
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Christopher Noble
MIT Technology Licensing Officer - Clean and Renewable Energy
Patent Protection

Biologically self-assembled nanotubes

US Patent 8,470,611

Biologically self-assembled nanotubes

US Patent 9,082,554
Synthesis of Highly Stable Sub-8 nm TiO2 Nanoparticles and Their Multilayer Electrodes of TiO2/MWNT for Electrochemical Applications
Nano Letters, 2013, 13 (10), 4610-4619
Virus-templated self-assembled single-walled carbon nanotubes for highly efficient electron collection in photovoltaic devices
Nature Nanotechnology, 6, 377–384 (2011


Virus enabled self-assembly of nanoparticles can be used for the fabrication of photoanodes to improve the efficiency of solar cells. In addition, this technology can be applied to existing dye-sensitized solar cells. 

Problem Addressed

Current photovoltaic devices have limited power conversion efficiency.The technology presented synthesizes single-walled carbon nanotubes by using a biological template method that does not affect electron transfer between TiO2 and SWCNT. Moreover, this technique takes hydrophobic interactions and pi-pi stacking into consideration when designing biological materials for SWCNT dispersion and stabilization, which was often ignored in previous reports. 


This invention develops a general approach to synthesize SWCNT/TiO2 complex in dye-sensitized solar cells by biological template self-assembly method, using a genetically engineered M13 virus. The nano-composited photoanodes for dye-sensitized solar cells are made by first optimizing the virus-SWCNT template through biomineralization of TiO2, This technology focuses on concentration and controls the binding between charged virus and SWCNTs through surface charge modification of the biological molecules. 


  • The virus binds and stabilizes SWCNTs, hence no chemical modification needs to be done on SWCNTs and the high electron mobility of SWCNTs is preserved
  • It is showed that an improvement of power efficiency of solar cells from 8% to 10.3% is possible by incorporating only .2wt% SWCNTs
  • Maximizes the impact of sorted SWCNTs