Meet the bionic mushroom that can generate electricity

10 November, 2018, 11:16 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Stevens Institute of Technology

This cyanobacteria creates electricity while graphene nanoribbons pull together the current. For this they used certain bacteria and graphene nanoribbon, which extend from the cap to the stem.

The researchers were able to power an LED bulb with their so-called "bionic mushrooms".

"Our designer bio-hybrid (Bionic Mushroom in our case) is a true example of a green bioelectricity generator as it is a three-dimensional seamless integration of cyanobacteria, mushroom (part of nature), and graphene nanoribbons", study author Sudeep Joshi told IFLScience. Thus, Joshi and his colleagues Packed cyanobacteria of the genus Anabaena in special nanoparticles and resettle them on the surface of the artificial mushrooms.

The electricity was produced by using 3D printing to place clusters of cyanobacteria, which derives its energy from the sun, on the mushroom.

Their testing revealed that the cyanobacteria cells lasted more days when placed on a white button mushroom cap compared to a silicone and dead mushroom setting.

The mushrooms essentially serve as a suitable environmental substrate with advanced functionality of nourishing the energy producing cyanobacteria. Mannoor and Sudeep Joshi, a postdoctoral fellow in his lab, wondered if white button mushrooms, which naturally host a rich microbiota but not cyanobacteria specifically, could provide the right environment - nutrients, moisture, pH and temperature - for the cyanobacteria to produce electricity for a longer period.


He added, "We showed for the first time that a hybrid system can incorporate an artificial collaboration, or engineered symbiosis, between two different microbiological kingdoms", reports Newsweek. It was like a needle sticking into the cyanobacteria cells to find its electrical signals, Mannoor said.

Using a special bio-ink, the team printed the bacteria on the cap of the mushroom in a spiral pattern.

Shining a light on the mushrooms activates cyanobacterial photosynthesis mechanism, which generates bio-electrons these electrons are driven under an applied bias voltage in an electrochemical setup.

"What we show in this paper is an approach utilizing a multi-material 3d printing to integrate and seamlessly merge (you can also say sort of "marrying") the "smart" properties of these both worlds - one of biological living micro-organisms and the other of abiotic functional nanomaterials", Mannoor wrote in an email.

Joshi and Mannoor discovered they could produce more electricity depending on the density and alignment of the bacteria. "By seamlessly integrating these microbes with nanomaterials, we could potentially realize many other awesome designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defense, healthcare and many other fields".

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