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Scientists Create 'Bionic Mushroom' That Can Generate Electricity

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A photo of a bionic mushroom. Researchers were able to turn regular white button mushrooms into sources of electricity. They manipulated the cyanobacteria to generate electricity for days by attaching it on top of a button mushroom.  ( Sudeep Joshi | Stevens Institute of Technology )

Researchers from Stevens Institute of technology have transformed an ordinary button mushroom from the grocery store into something bionic.

The researchers were able to generate electricity by attaching energy-producing cyanobacteria on the button mushroom using 3D printing. An electrode network of graphene nanoribbons was used to collect the current.

Not An Ordinary Grocery Store Mushroom

"In this case, our system — this bionic mushroom — produces electricity," stated Manu Mannoor, one of the authors of the study published in the journal Nano Letters. "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."

Cyanobacteria, which is common on land and oceans, have long been known to produce electricity. The researchers wanted to see if they can manipulate the cyanobacteria to produce electricity for a longer period of time with the right conditions. Meanwhile, regular button mushrooms already have the proper environment to host microbiota.

During the experiment, Mannoor and colleagues found that cyanobacterial cells lasted several days on the cap of a white button mushroom. Sudeep Joshi, also an author of the study, explained that the white button mushroom nourished the cyanobacteria as well, allowing it to generate electricity far longer than if it was cultivated on a silicone.

The next step was to collect the current. The team used a 3D printer with a robotic arm to print the electronic ink that contains the necessary graphene nanoribbons, which they placed them on top of the mushroom cap. The graphene nanoribbons acted like nano-probes that access the bio-electrons from the cyanobacterial cells.

They also printed a spiral pattern using bio-ink that contain cyanobacteria on the cap of the mushroom. The electronic ink and the bio-ink intercept at several points, allowing the transfer of electrons from the cyanobacteria to the nanoribbons.

Future Of Bio-Electricity

The researchers will continue tinkering with the process, hoping to produce higher electrical current using the bionic mushroom. They also hope that the study will inspire further studies and new technologies for healthcare and the environment.

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