There are some bacteria, which have a superpower that scientists would love to tackle. These microbes capture energy from light, just as plants do. Scientists have plans to tap these bacteria to make electricity. But as per their previous research, they didn’t survive long on artificial surfaces. So researchers have moved them to a living surface, which is a Mushroom. It is their first creation that mushroom makes electricity.
About 3-D Printing
Sudeep Joshi is an applied physicist. He works at the Stevens Institutes of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.He and his colleagues turned that mushroom which us a fungus into a mini energy form. This bionic mushroom combines 3-D printing, conductive ink, and bacteria to generate electricity. This is the design that combines nature with electronics.
Cyanobacteria which is also called blue-green algae make their own food from sunlight. Like plant they use photosynthesis which is a process that splits water molecules, releasing electrons. So bacteria spit out many of these stray electrons. When enough electrons build up in one place, they are able to create an electrical current.
Work on Mushroom
The researchers needed to climb a lot of these bacteria together. Then they decided to deposit them precisely onto a surface. Joshi`s team chose mushrooms for that surface. After this research, they realized that the mushrooms naturally host communities of bacteria and other microbes. It was easy to find test subjects for them. Joshi simply went to the grocery and picked up white button mushrooms.
It became a challenge that printing on those mushrooms. Because 3-D printers are supposed to print on flat surfaces. Mushroom caps are curved. So for this researchers spent months writing computer code to solve the problem. But finally, they came up with the program to 3-D print their ink onto the curved mushroom tops.
After that researchers printed two “ink” onto their mushrooms. In which one was a green ink made of cyanobacteria. They used this to make a spiral pattern on the cap. They also used black ink made of graphene. Graphene is a thin sheet of carbon atoms that`s great at conducting electricity. They printed this in a branching pattern across the mushroom top. Then it was time to shine.
As per Joshi, Cyanobacteria are the real heroes here. The microbes spit out electrons when Joshi`s team shone a light on mushrooms. Those electrons flowed into the graphene and created an electric current. The team published their results November 7, 2018, in Nano Letters.
So now Experiments like this are called Proof of Concept. They confirm the idea first. The researchers showed their idea worked, even If it`s not ready yet for practical use. To come at this level or this achievement took a few clever innovations. The first was getting microbes to accept being rehoused on a mushroom. A second biggie is figuring out how to print them on a curved surface.
To date, Joshi`s team has generated a roughly 70 nanoamp current. That`s small. Really small. It`s about a 7 millionth the current needed to power a 60-watt light bulb. So clearly, mushrooms won`t be powering our electronics right away.