Scientists have found a way to turn a normal shop-bought mushroom into an electricity generator in a process that they hope will one day be used to power our electrical devices.
They achieved this by covering the mushroom with bacteria and the current was collected by strands of graphene.
When a light was shone on the bacteria they would start to photosynthesize which generates a small amount of electricity known as a photocurrent.
The mushroom plays the role of a surface in which the bacteria can grow, as well as providing nutrients for the bacteria to stay alive.
This research, which was published in the Nano Letters journal is one of many recent studies in which scientists try to find ways to harness the power of nature’s mechanical functions and put them to good use.
The man who led the research, Professor Manu Mannoor, an engineer at Stevens Institute of Technology, said:
“In this case, our system – this bionic mushroom – produces electricity. 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.”
Mannoor and his team discovered that bacterial cells last several days longer when places on fungi compared to other surfaces.
Cyanobacteria have an ability to generate small bolts of electricity and up until recently it’s been a struggle to keep them alive in artificial conditions.
This hybrid system may be the solution, as the collaboration between the mushrooms and bacteria has proven to be highly effective.
The tiny current produced by the bacteria, which gets transferred to the graphene strips may only be enough to power a small LED light from several mushrooms, so it is way off being useful for everyday application at this stage.
But who know what the future holds as more bio-hybrid concepts are explored.
Professor Mannoor added, “With this work, we can imagine enormous opportunities for next-generation bio-hybrid applications,”
“For example, some bacteria can glow, while others sense toxins or produce fuel.
“By seamlessly integrating these microbes with nanomaterials, we could potentially realise many other amazing designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defence, healthcare and many other fields.”
We look forward to further developments in this field.