20.109(F15):Module 3

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20.109(F15): Laboratory Fundamentals of Biological Engineering

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Module 3

Lecturer: Angela Belcher
Instructors: Noreen Lyell, Leslie McClain and Maxine Jonas
TAs: Andee Wallace and George Sun
Lab manager: Hsinhwa Lee


“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 very slightly modified phage to build gold nanowires and then we'll let the phage themselves do the building, assembling them into a coin-style battery. Drawing on the rich stockroom of biological elements and a good but incomplete understanding of their behavior, we’ll hope to invent some novel materials with real-world applications.

This module has been developed thanks to the generous time and thoughtful efforts of several Belcher lab members, in particular Lieutenant Colonel F. John Burpo.

Lab links: day by day

M3D1: Growth of phage materials
M3D2: Phage nanowires
M3D3: Battery assembly
M3D4: Battery testing
M3D6: Research proposal presentations


  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

Notes for teaching faculty

(F09) TA notes, M3 (F10) TA notes, M3