‘Bionic mushroom’: Researchers get bacteria-covered fungus to make electricity

10 November, 2018, 11:15 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • Scientists create 'bionic mushroom' that can power an LED bulb

Ordinary white button mushrooms have been transformed into "bionic" fungi capable of producing eco-friendly electricity with a little help from some bacteria and nanotechnology.

A team of scientists, which includedtwo Indian-origin scientists, at Stevens Institute of Technology of New Jersey in the United States have successfully generated a small amount of electricity from the humble white button mushroom. 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.

Even though this current is not sufficient enough to power an electronic device, researchers who took part in this study believe that more numbers of bionic mushrooms if worked together could produce enough power required to light up an LED bulb. 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.

Manu Mannoor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Institute, said: "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". So the scientists from the Stevens Institute of Technology in the U.S. developed a clever method of marrying the mushroom to the sparky bugs.Appropriately enough, they came up with the idea while having lunch!"One day my friends and I went to lunch together and we ordered some mushrooms", said Sudeep Joshi, a postdoctoral researcher and author of the study."As we discussed them we realised they have a rich microbiota of their own, so we thought why not use the mushrooms as a support for the cynaobacteria". Then the scientist Sudeep Joshi suggested that the environment for the bacteria to become mushrooms.

The pair used a 3D printer to create graphene nanoribbons that would cover the top of the mushroom. "We showed for the first time that a hybrid system can incorporate an artificial collaboration, or engineered symbiosis, between two different microbiological kingdoms", Joshi says.

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Shining a light on the mushrooms activates cyanobacterial photosynthesis mechanism, which generates bio-electrons these electrons are driven under an applied bias voltage in an electrochemical setup.

They are now working on ways to generate higher currents using this system. "Ukraine", found in the gut bacterium that produces electricity.

The science behind the discovery could be used for other applications.

In a statement, Mannoor said the study could pave the way for larger opportunities involving bio-electricity.


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