Scientists Create 'Bionic Mushroom' That Can Generate Electricity

Cyanobacteria cells produce electricity as a result

Using a robotic arm-based 3-D printer, the cap of the mushrooms were first printed with an "electronic ink" containing graphene nanoribbons.

That would be an electrical generator, according to mechanical engineers at the Stevens Institute of Technology who mixed the two, along with a graphene nanoribbon network that carries current.

White button mushrooms host a rich microbiota but not cyanobacteria specifically, prompting Mannoor and postdoctoral fellow Sudeep Joshi, to ask if agaricus bisporus could provide the nutrients, moisture, pH and temperature for the cyanobacteria to produce electricity for a longer period. Nevertheless, researchers hope future versions will be more capable of powering up devices, adding that a group of mushrooms could create enough current to power up a LED flashlight.

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

The research is part of a broader effort to better improve our understanding of cells biological machinery and how to use those intricate molecular gears and levers to fabricate new technologies and useful systems for defence, healthcare and the environment. It's known to bioengineers for its ability to generate small jolts of electricity. An electrode network of graphene nanoribbons was used to collect the current. When they shined a light on the mushroom, it activated cyanobacterial photosynthesis and produced a photocurrent. To take an advantage of these capabilities, they designed a synthetic relationship between microbes and a mushroom that can produce electricity.

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.

"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.

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.

Dr Mannoor said: "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".

'For example, some bacteria can glow, while others sense toxins or produce fuel. "By seamlessly integrating these microbes with nanomaterials, we could potentially realize many other fantastic designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defense, healthcare and many other fields".

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