Researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey have added cyanobacteria (commonly known as blue-green bacteria) and graphene nanoribbons to the cap of the mushrooms to generate and collect electricity.
The research is part of a broader effort to better improve our understanding of cells biological machinery and how to use those intricate molecular gears and levers to fabricate new technologies and useful systems for defence, healthcare and the environment.
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. But who could have imagined a bionic mushroom that produces electricity?
Cyanobacteria's electricity-production abilities are well-documented, but the microbes can't survive for long when integrated into synthetic materials.
Mannoor and Sudeep Joshi, a postdoctoral fellow in his lab, tested white button mushrooms to see if they could provide the right nutrients, moisture, pH, and temperature for cyanobacteria to produce electricity for extended periods of time.
Their testing revealed that the cyanobacteria cells lasted more days when placed on a white button mushroom cap compared to a silicone and dead mushroom setting.
"The mushrooms essentially serve as a suitable environmental substrate with advanced functionality of nourishing the energy producing cyanobacteria", said Joshi.
An electrode network (branched pattern) and cyanobacteria (spiral pattern) were 3D printed on a mushroom to produce bio-electricity.
Then the mushroom cap was printed with a "bio ink" containing the cyanobacteria. At these sites, electrons could transfer through the outer membranes of the bacteria to the conductive network of graphene nanoribbons. Graphene nanoribbons printed alongside the bacteria could capture electrons released by the microbes during photosynthesis, producing bio-electricity.
And they believe an array of these bionic mushrooms, could generate enough electricity to light up an LED.
Cyanobacteria are known among bio-engineers for their ability to generate small jolts of electricity, but until now it has been hard to keep them alive in artificial conditions.
Dr Mannoor said: "By seamlessly integrating these microbes with nanomaterials, we could potentially realize many other fantastic designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defense, healthcare and many other fields".
"Our 3D-printing approach could be used to organize other bacterial species in complex arrangements to perform useful functions, such as bioluminescence", they 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'.