Researchers in New Jersey integrated microorganisms with nanomaterials to generate electricity through mushrooms, a progress in constructed symbiosis that could lead to design biohydric materials.
Tim Stevens Institute of Technology achieved this by covering a white rubber mushroom with three-dimensional clusters of cyanobacteria that generate electricity and graphene nanoribbons that collect electricity.
Business, reported in Nano Letters, is part of the wider effort to understand and utilize biological cell machines to create new technologies.
"In this case, our system – this bionic mushroom – produces electricity," said Manu Mannoor, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stevens. "By integrating cyanobacteria that can produce electricity, with nanoparticles capable of collecting electricity, we could better access the unique properties of both, increase them and create a completely new functional bionic system."
White rubber mushrooms possess rich microbiota, but not cyanobacteria, encouraging Mannoor and postdoctoral colleague Sudeep Joshi, wondering agaricus bisporus can provide nutrients, moisture, pH and temperature for cyanobacteria for the production of electricity for a long time.
Mannoor and Joshi showed that cyanobacterial cells lasted for several days longer when they were placed on a white gum gum as compared to the silicone and dead fungi used as controls.
"Mushrooms are mostly used as a suitable environment for environmental protection with advanced feeding power for cyanobacteria that produce energy," Joshi said. "We showed for the first time that the hybrid system could include artificial co-operation, or constructed symbiosis, between two different microbiological kingdoms."
Mannoor and Joshi are the first 3D printers of "electronic ink" containing graphene nanoribbons to form a branched network that collects electricity.
Then they printed "bio-ink" containing cyanobacteria on the mushroom lid in a spiral pattern that was interlaced with electronic ink. At these sites, electrons could transfer through the external cyanobacterial membranes to a conductive network of nanogen graphene. Glow of light on mushrooms is activated cyanobacterial photosynthesis, creating photocurrent.
With cyanobacters who lived longer in the state of constructed symbiosis, Mannoor and Joshi have shown that the amount of electricity produced by these bacteria may vary depending on the density and compliance they are packed with: the densely packed, the more electrical energy they produce. With 3D printing, they can be assembled to illuminate their electricity production eight times.
"With this work we can imagine enormous opportunities for next-generation bio-hybrid applications," said Mannoor. "For example, some bacteria can shine while others feel toxins or fuel products. Unintentionally integrating these germs with nanomaterials, we could achieve many other amazing biodiesel banners for the environment, defense, healthcare and many other areas."
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