Published: Sat, November 10, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Bionic 'Wonderland' Mushroom Unlocks New Insights Into Creating Electricity

Bionic 'Wonderland' Mushroom Unlocks New Insights Into Creating Electricity

They used a robotic arm-based 3D printer to print an "electronic ink" with the graphene nanoribbons and printed a "bio-ink" containing cyanobacteria onto the mushroom's cap in a spiral pattern.

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. In 2016, researchers at Binghamton University used cyanobacteria to make a bio-solar panel and now researchers in New Jersey have integrated the microbes with nanomaterials and mushrooms to generate electricity.

"Generation of photocurrent was an example to showcase the application aspect of 'designer hybrid architecture.' However, we believe that an array of these bionic mushrooms in series will be able to power up a low-power surface-mounting LED".

Mushrooms as a source of power? From there, all the scientists had to do was flash a light on their new bionic mushroom. Thanks to the mushroom's moisture, nutrients, and unique surface, the researchers discovered it could cultivate cyanobacteria there longer than any other common surface.

The research, published in the journal Nano Letters, is part of a wider effort by scientists to understand how biological machinery can be hijacked and put to good use. The cyanobacteria on the mushrooms cap photosynthesized under the light and it sent electrons through the conductive graphene approximately measuring 65 nanoAmps of current.

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To solve this problem, scientist Sudeep Joshi decided that environment for the bacteria to become mushrooms. Manoor says this network of nanoribbons is akin to "needles sticking into a single cell to access electrical signals inside it".

Then the mushroom cap was printed with a "bio ink" containing the cyanobacteria.

"As I mentioned, bacteria possess many other properties beside the electricity production", Mannoor said. "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."It's a new start; we call it engineered symbiosis".

Recently, a few researchers have 3D printed bacterial cells in different spatial geometrical patterns, but Mannoor and Joshi, as well as co-author Ellexis Cook, are not only the first to pattern it to augment their electricity-generating behavior but also integrate it to develop a functional bionic architecture.

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

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