Clean, green energy from mushrooms anyone?

In the race against time to search for alternative fossil free energy sources, a team of US researchers have come up with the interesting proposition centred around turning the humble button mushroom into an electricity generator, in the hope that one day it will be used to power devices.

The scientists have been researching cyanobacteria (organisms widely found in the oceans and on land) and looking into their ability to turn sunlight into electricity via photosynthesis. Unfortunately, cyanobacteria does not survive long enough on artificial surfaces…however the mushroom on the other hand, provides great conditions for bacteria to thrive, allowing the cyanobacteria to generate a small amount of power.

The mushroom generators were created by 3D printing an electronic ink containing strands of graphene on the surface of the fungus to collect the current. Following this, a special bio-ink was used to print the bacteria on the cap of the mushroom in a spiral pattern. Finally, once a light was shone at the “bionic mushroom”, it caused the cyanobacteria to photosynthesise, and as the cells harvested this glow they generated a small amount of electricity known as a “photocurrent”.

The research was carried out by Manu Mannoor and Sudeep Joshi of the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. "It's a new start; we call it engineered symbiosis. If we do more research in this we can really push this field forward to have some type of effective green technology."

References:

  • https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46127318
  • https://edition.cnn.com/2018/11/08/health/bionic-mushroom-clean-energy-scli-intl/index.html
  • https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/bionic-mushroom-electricity-light-bacteria-graphene-science-research-technology-a8622006.html