Published: Sat, November 10, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Scientists have forced the fungi to produce electricity

Scientists have forced the fungi to produce electricity

A team of researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology has developed bionic mushrooms patterned with energy-producing cyanobacterial colonies and an electrode network. Mannoor and postdoctoral fellow Sudeep Joshi came up with the idea of using mushrooms because they naturally host a complex microbiota and could potentially provide the nutrients, moisture, pH and temperature necessary for the cyanobacteria to survive and produce electricity. The graphene nanoribbons acted like nano-probes that access the bio-electrons from the cyanobacterial cells.

They then created a bio-ink with the cyanobacteria that sat atop the mushroom cap in a spiral pattern.

A regular shop-bought mushroom has been turned into an electricity generator in a process scientists hope will one day be used to power devices, writes the Independent.

In their latest feat of engineering, researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have taken an ordinary white button mushroom from a grocery store and made it bionic, supercharging it with 3D-printed clusters of cyanobacteria that generate electricity and swirls of graphene nanoribbons that can collect the current.

And they believe an array of these bionic mushrooms, could generate enough electricity to light up an LED.

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Cyanobacteria are known among bio-engineers for their ability to generate small jolts of electricity, but until now it has been hard to keep them alive in artificial conditions.

To solve this problem, scientist Sudeep Joshi decided that environment for the bacteria to become mushrooms. They say their research shows the possibilities of "engineered symbiosis" between organisms and nonliving materials, which they characterize as different worlds. The team used a 3D printer with a robotic arm to print the electronic ink that contains the necessary graphene nanoribbons, which they placed them on top of the mushroom cap. When light was shone on the mushroom, photosynthesis was activated leading to the generation of photocurrent - essentially this is another example of a bio-solar panel.

"As I mentioned, bacteria possess many other properties beside the electricity production", Mannoor said. With 3D printing, it was possible to assemble them so as to boost their electricity-producing activity eight-fold more than the casted cyanobacteria using a laboratory pipette.

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. "By seamlessly integrating these microbes with nanomaterials, we could potentially realize many other wonderful designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defense, healthcare and many other fields".

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