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Bioprinting a Renewable Energy Generating Mushroom

Teslarati has caught wind of some fascinating findings recently published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.  Apparently, scientists from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey have managed to bioprint a renewable energy generating mushroom.

In their experiment, the scientists utilized “strands of graphene, which were intertwined with cyanobacterial cells on a mushroom cap to capture 65 nanoamps of power.  While this amount of power is a fraction of what would be needed to power even an LED, the initial results are promising for further development as a source of renewable energy.”

For those not already aware, cyanobacteria are “more commonly known as ‘blue-green algae.’”  Cyanobacteria “are aquatic, photosynthetic bacteria, which have been around for about 3.5 billion years.  In addition to the energy produced by photosynthesis, cyanobacteria also produce oxygen, and their ancient ancestors are credited with producing the original oxygen in our atmosphere.  These bacteria are further responsible for the origin of plants – the chloroplasts enabling photosynthesis are actually cyanobacterium living in plant cells.”

For this experiment, the scientists took advantage of another cyanobacteria ability: the release of photocurrents.  Cyanobacteria, during photosynthesis, release a fraction of their electrons, creating photocurrents.  The scientists developed a way for this process to be even more streamlined, therefore, “after being printed onto a mushroom cap, the photocurrent produced was eight times greater than what is produced naturally.”

The scientists chose graphene as their 3D printed ink due to its electrical conductivity and thin size.  This graphene ink was, in turn, able to “collect the electricity from the cyanobacteria placed on the mushroom cap.  Mushrooms were chosen first to provide a surface and nutrients for the cyanobacteria to grow, and second, they enabled the bacteria to last several days longer compared to other bases and materials.”

After all this, the researchers were able to conclude they had successfully created a new functional bio-hybrid system.  “With their proof-of-concept “bionic” mushroom, they are hopeful their research can be used to expand to include more bio-hybrid applications. The bacteria themselves have several other properties which can be integrated for purposes such as glowing identification tags for medical use, toxin sensing, and fuel production.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Teslarati

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