Researchers from the Stevens Institute of Technology 3D Printed Graphene nanoribbons and Cyanobacteria over top of an everyday grocery store mushroom. The resulting hybrid bionic fungi-mushroom is capable of producing electricity from criss crossing intersections of cyanobacteria (power generation) and graphene nanoribbons for power storage.
Cyanobacteria otherwise known as blue-green algae is renown for it’s ability to generate electricity from the sun, and feed itself. As an electroquantum metamaterial Graphene nanoribbons are an interesting decision for power input conductor. On the other hand, choosing Graphene probably makes the most sense given that it is light but durable and electrically conductive. Furthermore this nanoribbon shape could offer some unique options such as trimming it’s width to modify the “quantum state”, and therefor, electrical behaviour.
“In this case, our system – this bionic mushroom – produces electricity,” said Manu Mannoor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stevens.
“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.”
For some reason cyanobacteria does not survive long enough on artificial biocompatible surfaces. So instead researchers came up with an idea – transplant the blue green algae on to a white mushroom cap since is it has a richer ecosystem of microbiota that is more complementary to cyanobacterias natural environment. Then in order to harness electricity generated by this primordial bacteria they would need some form of conductor to spot the surface of the mushroom cap as well, that’s where the Graphene nanoribbon came in – likely one of the only materials that could fit on a mushroom without weighing it down too much.
“The mushrooms essentially serve as a suitable environmental substrate with advanced functionality of nourishing the energy producing cyanobacteria,” said Joshi.
“We showed for the first time that a hybrid system can incorporate an artificial collaboration, or engineered symbiosis, between two different microbiological kingdoms.
It turns out that this whole bionic hybrid-fungi mushroom setup lasts several days longer then current ways of sustaining blue green algae for electricity generation. Using a 3D Printer, the cyanobacteria and graphene nanoribbons are extruded overtop of the white mushroom cap in criss crossing spiral patterns. At each point of intersection electricity from the cyanobacteria reaches the graphene nanoribbon, converting it in to usable energy. Using a 3D Printer instead of a Pipette to transplant this cyanobacteria increases power output eight-fold.
These are basically mushroom shaped solar cells in that when they are exposed to light blue green algae generates electricity via cyanobacterial photosynthesis. Generally speaking the the more tightly packed they are the higher electrical output there is.
“With this work, we can imagine enormous opportunities for next-generation bio-hybrid applications,” Mannoor said. “For example, some bacteria can glow, while others sense toxins or produce fuel. By seamlessly integrating these microbes with nanomaterials, we could potentially realize many other amazing designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defense, healthcare and many other fields.”