Scientists efficiently engineer electricity-generating bionic mushrooms

Scientists create 'bionic mushroom' that can power an LED bulb

Scientists create 'bionic mushroom' that can power an LED bulb

The bacteria they used is called cyanobacteria, which produces energy from light like plants.

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.

If the mushroom was shining in the sun or bulb, it produces the desired amount of electricity, namely 65 microamps.

Using 3D printing, researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have created a bionic mushroom. Why?

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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. Thus, Joshi and his colleagues Packed cyanobacteria of the genus Anabaena in special nanoparticles and resettle them on the surface of the artificial mushrooms.

During the experiment, Mannoor and colleagues found that cyanobacterial cells lasted several days on the cap of a white button mushroom. "It's just a start of a such a designer bionic mushroom", he said, adding that this is one of the first functional mash-ups of nanotechnology, fungus and bacteria. "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. They say their research shows the possibilities of "engineered symbiosis" between organisms and nonliving materials, which they characterize as different worlds.

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. As Mannoor and Sandeep Joshi, a postdoctoral fellow at the lab realised that mushroom naturally hosts rich microbiota, which will provide the right environment - nutrients, moisture, pH and temperature as required. Manoor says this network of nanoribbons is akin to "needles sticking into a single cell to access electrical signals inside it". It was printed in a pattern that enables them to capture the electrons released through the outer membrane of the bacteria which interacts with the mushroom. When they shined a light on the mushroom, it activated cyanobacterial photosynthesis and produced a photocurrent. And this will solve the problem, which is not allowed to use them to generate electricity.

"These are the next steps, to optimise the bio-currents, to generate more electricity, to power a small LED", he said. "By seamlessly integrating these microbes with nanomaterials, we could potentially realize many other unbelievable designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defense, healthcare and many other fields".

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