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Bionic mushrooms generate electricity

Agriculture & Energy

Researchers have found a way to use bionic mushrooms as a source of clean, renewable electricity.

There have been various innovations that seek to find alternative forms of energy production. This data centre uses excess urban heat and a new low-tech website runs only on solar power. With fossil fuels becoming ever more depleted, the need for clean energy sources has never been greater. New research has now also revealed a way to generate electricity from patches of mushrooms.

A team of researchers from New Jersey’s Stevens Institute of Technology, led by Manu Mannoor and Sudeep Joshi, have discovered a bionic mushroom that can generate electricity. Their work began with living mushrooms and 3D-printing a branched pattern onto its cap. They used an electronic ink containing graphene nanoribbons combined with a bio-ink containing cyanobacteria. Shining a light on the spiral pattern of the ink thereby caused the bacteria to photosynthesise. This process also produced electrons which passed through their outer membranes. At points on the cap where the bio-ink pattern intersected that of the electronic ink, those electrons transfer to a conductive network formed by the graphene nanoribbons. The entire process ultimately generated a current of about 65 nanoAmps.

This amount of energy from a single mushroom is not enough to power a device on its own. However an array of the mushrooms combined could illuminate an LED. The researchers therefore hope that continued work on their system may lead to improved productivity that could have more diverse uses, such as bioluminescent lighting. Their research is still ongoing in order to fine-tune the process still further.



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