Scientists create bionic mushroom that generates electricity out of microbes

Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens Institute of Technology

A team of scientists has managed to turn funghi into a source of electricity.

The work, reported in the November 7 issue of Nano Letters, may sound like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland, but the hybrids are part of a broader effort to better improve our understanding of cells biological machinery and how to use those intricate molecular gears and levers to fabricate new technologies and useful systems for defense, healthcare and the environment. "Light on the mushrooms activates the photosynthesis process of the cyanobacteria, which are generated by the biological origin of the electrons", explained Joshi. This way, electrons traveled through the outer membranes of the microbes to the conductive network. Lab tests proved a white button mushroom cap offered the proper nutrients, moisture, pH and temperature to preserve cyanobacteria cells. The deposition patterns allowed the bio-ink and electronic ink to intersect, allowing electron transfer. So the scientists from the Stevens Institute of Technology in the USA developed a clever method of marrying the mushroom to the sparky bugs.Appropriately enough, they came up with the idea while having lunch!"One day my friends and I went to lunch together and we ordered some mushrooms", said Sudeep Joshi, a postdoctoral researcher and author of the study."As we discussed them we realised they have a rich microbiota of their own, so we thought why not use the mushrooms as a support for the cynaobacteria".

Additionally, both researchers discovered that the amount of electricity produced can vary depending on how cyanobacteria are packed together.

Researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey have added cyanobacteria (commonly known as blue-green bacteria) and graphene nanoribbons to the cap of the mushrooms to generate and collect electricity.

"The mushrooms essentially serve as a suitable environmental substrate with advanced functionality of nourishing the energy-producing cyanobacteria", postdoctoral fellow Sudeep Joshi said in a statement.

To make their odd bionic mushroom a reality, worldwide scientists printed an "electronic ink" containing graphene nanoribbons. The researchers wanted to see if they can manipulate the cyanobacteria to produce electricity for a longer period of time with the right conditions.

Manoor, Joshi and co-author Ellis Cook are the first to pattern 3D printed bacterial cells to augment their electricity-generating behavior, and also to integrate it to develop a functional bionic architecture.

"With this work, we can imagine enormous opportunities for next-generation bio-hybrid applications".

It is noted that this approach can be combined mushrooms with different microbes: some of them will be able to Shine and others to produce fuel.

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