Imagine the world powered by mushrooms. This is an actual scientific thing we’ve now invented mushrooms that produce electricity, no fossil fuels required. So, how engineering bionic mushrooms with graphene nanoribbons are done.
Let me explain: Researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology just created what they’re calling a bionic mushroom, a fungus they’ve modified to produce electricity! It really is basically any old mushroom. This team bought those little white button mushrooms you can get at the grocery store to throw in your salad or pasta sauce, but with a few special additions.
First of all, mushrooms are much more exciting than they may seem at first glance. They are host organisms for their own microbial communities, acting as little homes for other microorganisms like bacteria. We also know that certain bacteria have electricity-producing properties. Cyanobacteria, for example, is an extremely diverse group of bacteria that are photosynthetic, meaning they make sunlight into energy. This photosynthetic process produces high-energy electrons, which can then be intercepted and used to produce an electric current. And voila, you have a living solar panel–otherwise known as a bio photovoltaic cell.
So how do we keep these bacteria alive in time spans long enough for them to be practically useful?
This is where the mushroom comes back in, with its nice and comfy nutrients and pH and moisture, which help those bacteria feel right at home. One of the coolest parts of this experiment–and yes, it gets even cooler than bio photovoltaic cells–is that the bacteria are printed onto their mushroom habitat. These living organisms can be loaded into just a regular paper printer as a bio-ink, which is already insane.
But in this particular case, they were deposited by a 3D printer in the desired structure and pattern onto their support matrix, which
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In future experiments, we could just add sunlight, wire a couple of those ingenious fungi together, and ‘ta-da’: a light bulb comes on. All-natural clean electricity. This kind of project is what scientists are calling engineered symbiosis, exploiting an existing relationship between two or more organisms for humanity’s benefit. And this brilliant light bulb of an idea has appeared over the heads of scientists all over the world. MIT engineers have embedded specially designed nanoparticles into plant leaves, creating plants that glow.
Other research has tapped into the existing relationship between plant roots and bacteria to design plants that are particularly good at binding heavy metals, making plants that could be used for environmental remediation. And another super exciting microbe project has genetically engineered symbiotic gut bacteria in mosquitoes to stop the parasite that causes malaria in its tracks inside the mosquito.
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In finding solutions to humanity’s toughest problems, like developing clean energy and combating disease, scientists are looking to nature for inspiration and for ingenious hacks into life’s carefully balanced systems. The resulting projects could just give us the answers we’re looking for and help us preserve those natural systems that have given us so much. It’s not exactly same, but you may have actually already made a voltaic cell at home, using a potato attached to some wires and nails. Does that count as a bio-voltaic cell? I hope by engineering bionic mushrooms with Graphene Nanoribbons can change the way we generate electricity.