Bionic mush­rooms that gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity cre­ated by sci­en­tists

Iran Daily - - Science & Technology -

A reg­u­lar shop-bought mush­room has been turned into an elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tor in a process sci­en­tists hope will one day be used to power de­vices.

The ‘bionic mush­room’ was cov­ered with bac­te­ria ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing elec­tric­ity and strands of graphene that col­lected the cur­rent, The In­de­pen­dent re­ported.

Shin­ing a light on the struc­ture ac­ti­vated the bac­te­ria’s abil­ity to pho­to­syn­the­size, and as the cells har­vested this glow they gen­er­ated a small amount of elec­tric­ity known as a ‘pho­tocur­rent’.

The fungi sup­ported this process by pro­vid­ing the bac­te­ria with vi­able sur­face on which to grow as well as nu­tri­ents to stay alive.

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.

“In this case, our sys­tem — this bionic mush­room — pro­duces elec­tric­ity,” said Pro­fes­sor Manu Man­noor, an en­gi­neer at Stevens In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy who led the re­search.

“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.”

Pro­fes­sor Man­noor and his team found that bac­te­rial cells lasted sev­eral days longer when placed on liv­ing mush­rooms com­pared to other bases.

Cyanobac­te­ria are known among bio­engi­neers for their abil­ity to gen­er­ate small jolts of elec­tric­ity, but un­til now it has been dif­fi­cult to keep them alive in ar­ti­fi­cial con­di­tions.

By cre­at­ing a ‘hy­brid sys­tem’ that en­cour­ages the mush­rooms and bac­te­ria to col­lab­o­rate, the sci­en­tists think they have solved this prob­lem.the sys­tems were cre­ated by 3D print­ing an elec­tronic ink con­tain­ing strands of graphene, and then fol­low­ing this with a bio-ink con­tain­ing the bac­te­ria onto the cap of the mush­room.

When light shone was on the mush­room, the bac­te­ria be­gan to pho­to­syn­the­size and a tiny cur­rent of about 65 nanoamps passed into the net­work of graphene.

While the sci­en­tists think an ar­ray of th­ese mush­rooms would be enough to power some­thing like an LED light, they are still way off pow­er­ing larger elec­tronic de­vices.

“With this work, we can imag­ine enor­mous op­por­tu­ni­ties for next-gen­er­a­tion bio-hy­brid ap­pli­ca­tions,” said Pro­fes­sor Man­noor.

“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 amaz­ing de­signer bio-hy­brids for the en­vi­ron­ment, de­fense, health­care and many other fields.”

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