Scientists built an electricity-producing bionic mushroom

Eloise Marshall
November 9, 2018

A team of researchers led by Manu Mannoor and Sudeep Joshi from Stevens Institute of Technology in the U.S. wanted to engineer an artificial symbiosis between button mushrooms and cyanobacteria.

Thus, under the action of light, the microorganisms listed in mushrooms using "biological ink", started to allocate the electric current. About 2.6 billion years ago, cyanobacteria changed the state of the atmosphere forever by pumping oxygen, gradually transforming the planet from a hellish wasteland into a sprawling oasis of life. The more densely packed the bacteria, the more energy it could produce.

The researchers were able to generate electricity by attaching energy-producing cyanobacteria on the button mushroom using 3D printing.

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". Meanwhile, regular button mushrooms already have the proper environment to host microbiota.

In the team's scenario, the mushroom would provide shelter, moisture and nutrients, while cyanobacteria 3D-printed on the mushroom's cap would supply energy by photosynthesis. "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".

The mushrooms essentially serve as a suitable environmental substrate with advanced functionality of nourishing the energy producing cyanobacteria. "We showed for the first time that a hybrid system can incorporate an artificial collaboration, or engineered symbiosis, between two different microbiological kingdoms".

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Researchers created "bionic" mushrooms by 3D printing cyanobacteria contained in hydrogel (bio-ink) directly onto button mushroom caps in a spiral pattern. At the places where the cyanobacteria connected with the graphene, the electron transfer would take place.

"Light on the mushrooms activates the photosynthesis process of the cyanobacteria, which are generated by the biological origin of the electrons", explained Joshi.

Joshi and Mannoor discovered they could produce more electricity depending on the density and alignment of the bacteria.

In addition, the team is looking into how to produce higher electrical currents using the bionic mushrooms, which would make them more useful.

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

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