A team of scientists from the Stevens Institute of Technology have 3D printed a Bionic Mushroom that can generate small currents of electricity.
First discussed via a study published in the journal, Nano Letters, Sudeep Joshi and a team of scientists have been demonstrating how some of the attributes of biological species can combine in order to create some innovative applications. The structure, which is made from a regular button mushroom, has been patterned with some energy-producing cyanobacteria. The bionic mushroom as the team have branded it, can generate around 65 nanoamps of current. Whilst this isn’t enough to help power any large electrical devices, the team remain confident that an array of them would be able to power a LED light.
Combining Cyanobacteria and Nanomaterials
Speaking more about the research, Team Leader of the Neuro-Bionics and Neuro-Electric medicine Laboratory at the Stevens Institute of Technology, explains:
“We report on seamless merging of cyanobacteria (Anabaena) and functional nanomaterials via a 3D printing technique. Our goal was to better access the unique properties of both these components, augment them and create and entirely new functional bionic architecture on a mushroom.”
Author of the research study, Sudeep Joshi, then explains how when using a 3D printing technique, the team were able to transform the cyanobacteria into forming a working electrode.
“Ours is an artificial symbiosis between the mushroom and the cyanobacteria/graphene nanoribbons in which the mushroom provides the right biophysiological conditions, such as shelter, moisture, nutrients, suitable pH conditions and temperature. Such mutually beneficial symbiosis naturally occurs in many living organisms but we have exploited it in an engineered device.”
Using 3D Printing to Create the Bionic Mushroom
In order to first create conductive properties within the Bionic Mushroom, the team used 3D printing to print an electronic ink which includes graphene nanoribbons onto the cap of the mushroom. To make the mushroom act as a working electrode, the ink was printed in a Fibonacci pattern in order to create a uniformly branched electrode network. This would then cover a large majority of the surface area, to which the electrode was then extended throughout the stem.
Conductivity of the Bionic Mushroom then relies on the activation of photosynthesis, as Joshi details.
“Next, we 3D printed a bioink containing cyanobacteria onto the cap in a spiral pattern that intersected with the electronic ink at multiple points. At these contact sites, electrons transfer through the outer membranes of the cyanobacteria to the conductive network of the graphene nanoribbons when we shine a light source on the mushroom. This activates photosynthesis in the cyanobacteria that generate bio-electrons, which are then driven under an applied bias voltage in an electrochemical set-up.”
Whilst the process sounds complex, the idea of combining cyanobacteria with functional nanomaterials via a 3D printing process is certainly an intriguing one. Their research could become more interesting in the future, as the team state they are eager to investigate ways on how they might be able to generate higher currents using their unorthodox system.
3D Printing Industry – Scientists 3D Print a Mushroom to Generate Bioelectricity