'Bionic mushroom': Researchers get bacteria-covered fungus to make electricity
Published Friday, November 9, 2018 10:55PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 9, 2018 11:10PM EST
A day could be coming where at least some of your electricity could be generated by something you’d find on a salad.
Researchers attached energy-producing bacteria to the cap of a mushroom, shone light on it and found it generated a small amount of electricity when it was collected by a 3D-printed nanotech scaffold.
The study’s co-author Sudeep Joshi said his team came up with the idea while they were eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant.
“We ordered mushrooms and were having a discussion … and then we came to our lab, started the experiments and the story follows,” he told CTV News Channel Friday.
The bacteria they used is called cyanobacteria, which produces energy from light like plants. It’s known to bioengineers for its ability to generate small jolts of electricity.
The problem is keeping it alive in artificial environments -- but having it attached to a mushroom helps it survive for a longer period of time.
“(The) fungus is just there to support the cynobacteria,” Joshi explained, saying how the hybrid system made the whole thing possible. “Cyanobacteria is the key player here for producing a current … (they) are the hero here.”
Scientists shone a light onto the mushroom and the bacteria on top photosynthesized and produced 65 nanoamps. That current then passed through a 3D-printed electronic ink which contained graphene and was, in turn, captured by scientists’ sensors.
The research, published in the journal Nano Letters, on Tuesday, was conducted by scientists at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Their goal is part of a broader effort to figure out how biological machinery can be tweaked, hijacked and harnessed by humans.
The next step in their research would be figuring out how to get the hybrid’s current to light a small lamp or an LED light.
Joshi said that down the road the cyanobacteria-mushroom hybrid could even be a renewable source of energy.
“We would like to go in that direction. It’s just a start of a such a designer bionic mushroom,” he said, adding that this is one of the first functional mash-ups of nanotechnology, fungus and bacteria.
“If we keep pushing our limits, one day it will be a reality,” Joshi said.