To create the "bionic mushroom", researchers used a 3D printer to create two types of electronic ink patterns, one containing the bacteria, and a second containing graphene nanoribbons to collect the current.
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. When placed on the cap of white button mushrooms, the cyanobacteria were exposed to optimal levels of nutrients, moisture, pH, and temperature. While one button bionic mushroom won't make a massive dent, the team is now working on a way to link them together to provide more power.
As researchers the world over search for alternative energy sources, there has been a sharp rise in interest in cyanobacteria, said a BBC report. This cyanobacteria creates electricity while graphene nanoribbons pull together the current. From there, all the scientists had to do was flash a light on their new bionic mushroom.
The research is part of understanding of cell's biological machinery and how to use those intricate molecular gears and levers to fabricate new technologies and useful defence, healthcare and the environment.
"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 is known for its ability to produce electricity in photosynthesis but past use of these in bio-engineering has been limited by its short life span.
"The mushrooms essentially serve as a suitable environmental substrate with advanced functionality of nourishing the energy-producing cyanobacteria", postdoctoral fellow Sudeep Joshi said in a statement. Imagine needles sticking into a single cell to access electrical signals inside it, explains Mannoor.
Clusters of energy-producing cyanobacteria were attached to a typical button mushroom using 3D-printing technology, alongside an electrode network to harness the power they produce. When they shined a light on the mushroom, it activated cyanobacterial photosynthesis and produced a photocurrent. The more densely packed the bacteria, the more electricity they produce, which is where 3-D printing came in handy.
Dr Mannoor said: "By seamlessly integrating these microbes with nanomaterials, we could potentially realize many other awesome designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defense, healthcare and many other fields". "By seamlessly integrating these microbes with nanomaterials, we could potentially realize many other incredible designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defense, healthcare and many other fields".