Bionic mushrooms can produce electricity

Stevens Institute of Technology

"These are the next steps, to optimise the bio-currents, to generate more electricity, to power a small LED."A big plus for the experiment was the fact that the bugs on the fungus lasted several days longer compared with cyanobacteria placed on other surfaces".

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. They call this system "the bionic mushroom". Now, a team of United States researchers say they've found a way to make environmentally friendly energy using bionic mushrooms covered in bacteria.

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. This way, electrons traveled through the outer membranes of the microbes to the conductive network.

'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'.

"The mushrooms essentially serve as a suitable environmental substrate with advanced functionality of nourishing the energy-producing cyanobacteria", said Joshi. When they shone a light on this magical mushroom, it caused the cyanobacteria to generate a small amount of electricity.Not quite a lightbulb moment but proof that the idea works. Manoor says this network of nanoribbons is akin to "needles sticking into a single cell to access electrical signals inside it". The cyanobacteria were also 3-D printed as "bio-ink" onto the mushroom's cap in a spiral pattern that intersected with the graphene ribbons. The researchers put a light on the mushroom to spur photosynthesis in the cyanobacteria - thus starting the photocurrent. To take an advantage of these capabilities, they designed a synthetic relationship between microbes and a mushroom that can produce electricity.

"In this case, our system - this bionic mushroom - produces electricity", stated Manu Mannoor, one of the authors of the study published in the journal Nano Letters.

"Right now we are using cyanobacteria from the pond, but you can genetically engineer them and you can change their molecules to produce higher photo currents, via photosynthesis", said Sudeep Joshi.

In a statement, Mannoor said the study could pave the way for larger opportunities involving bio-electricity. "By seamlessly integrating these microbes with nanomaterials, we could potentially realise many other unbelievable designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defence, healthcare and many other fields".

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