The scientists used 3D printing to attach clusters of energy-producing bugs to the cap of a button mushroom. The fungus provides the ideal environment to allow the cyanobacteria to generate a small amount of power. The authors say their fossil-free “bionic mushroom” could have great potential.
As researchers the world over search for alternative energy sources, there has been a sharp rise in interest in cyanobacteria. These organisms, widely found in the oceans and on land, are being investigated for their abilities to turn sunlight into electrical current. One big problem is that they do not survive long enough on artificial surfaces to be able to deliver on their power potential.
That’s where the humble button mushroom comes in. This fertile fungus is already home to many other forms of bacterial life, providing an attractive array of nutrients, moisture and temperature. So the scientists from the Stevens Institute of Technology in the US developed a clever method of marrying the mushroom to the sparky bugs.
Using a special bio-ink, the team printed the bacteria on the cap of the mushroom in a spiral pattern. They had previously used an electronic ink to embed graphene nano-ribbons on to the surface of the fungus to collect the current. When they shone a light on this magical mushroom, it caused the cyanobacteria to generate a small amount of electricity. Not quite a lightbulb moment but proof that the idea works. The researchers say that several mushrooms wired up together could light a small lamp.