Scientists Create 'Bionic Mushroom' That Can Generate Electricity

Scientists Create 'Bionic Mushroom' That Can Generate Electricity

It's no secret we are looking for more renewable sources of energy, so scientists made a decision to try to engineer a bionic mushroom that could help generate electricity.

The research is part of understanding of cell's biological machinery and how to use those intricate molecular gears and levers to fabricate new technologies and useful defence, healthcare and the environment. They manipulated the cyanobacteria to generate electricity for days by attaching it on top of a button mushroom. The cyanobacteria on the mushrooms cap photosynthesized under the light and it sent electrons through the conductive graphene approximately measuring 65 nanoAmps of current. In 2016, researchers at Binghamton University used cyanobacteria to make a bio-solar panel and now researchers in New Jersey have integrated the microbes with nanomaterials and mushrooms to generate electricity. They then printed a bio-ink containing the cyanobacteria onto the mushroom's cap in a spiral pattern intersecting with the electronic ink at multiple points.

The team at Stevens Institute of Technology achieved this by covering a white button mushroom with 3D-printed clusters of cyanobacteria that generate electricity and graphene nanoribbons that collect the current.

'By integrating cyanobacteria that can produce electricity, with nanoscale materials capable of collecting the current, we were able to better access the unique properties of both, augment them, and create an entirely new functional bionic system'.

As researchers the world over search for alternative energy sources, there has been a sharp rise in interest in cyanobacteria, said a BBC report.

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The two researchers first used a robotic arm-based 3D printer to print an electronic ink containing the graphene nanoribbons, which served as an electricity-gathering network.

One big problem is that they do not survive long enough on artificial surfaces to be able to deliver on their power potential.That's where the humble button mushroom comes in.The fungi provide the bacteria with viable surface on which to grow as well as nutrients to stay alive. "We are looking to connect all the mushrooms in series, in an array, and we are also looking to pack more bacteria together", said Sudeep Joshi. The researchers put a light on the mushroom to spur photosynthesis in the cyanobacteria - thus starting the photocurrent.

Cyanobacteria's ability to produce electricity is well known in bioengineering circles.

The amount of electricity generated by the "bionic mushroom" varies depending on the density and alignment with which the bacteria is packed, the authors reported in the journal Nano Letters.

"With this work, we can imagine enormous opportunities for next-generation bio-hybrid applications", Mannoor says. "For example, some bacteria can glow, while others sense toxins or produce fuel", said Mannoor.

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