Most mobile phone microphones are piezoelectric because they need to convert energy from sound waves into electrical output that can be transmitted and then translated back into sound waves at the other end of the line.
These piezoelectric components are made out of heavy, toxic metals such as lead and cadmium, according to bioengineer Seung-Wuk Lee.
M13 bacteriophage has the ability to generate electricity when compressed without the involvement of any toxic chemicals.
Lee and his colleagues found that the pencil-shaped M13 virus is potentially a perfect energy source because the virus is not harmful to humans.
It is also cheap and easy to make to the extent that scientists can get trillions of viruses from a single flask of infected bacteria.
To improve the electricity generating power of M13, Lee's team tweaked the amino acid content of the virus's outer protein coat by adding four negatively charged glutamate molecules.
"This will bring a lot of excitement to the field," said Zhong Lin Wang, an engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
"By utilising the properties of these biomaterials, we can find unique applications in the future," Wang said.