Scientists outlined in a study published Wednesday a "bionic mushroom" capable of producing its own electricity.
To do this, researchers used cyanobacteria, a bacteria with a blue-green color that creates its energy through photosynthesis, like plants.
Researchers at the Stevens Institute for Technology said the microbes have been known in the bioengineering community to create electricity, but don't last as long because the artificial surfaces used to host the bacteria can't keep it thriving long enough.
For their study, Manu Mannoor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the institute, and postdoctorate fellow Sudeep Joshi tried a button mushroom.
Their study published in Nano Letters, a peer-reviewed journal from the American Chemical Society, found properties within the mushroom allowed the cyanobacteria to survive longer while generating electricity.
To create the "bionic mushroom," researchers used a 3D printer to create two types of electronic ink patterns, one containing the bacteria, and a second containing graphene nanoribbons to collect the current. Those patterns were placed on the mushroom's cap.
In an email to USA TODAY, Mannoor said they integrated the microbes and mushroom in a way that "the cyanobacteria is able to make the energy by photosynthesis while the mushroom provide it with the suitable 'shelter' to do so."
"The features of this shelter include moisture, biophysiological conditions suitable for the bacteria to live longer, as well as the geometry of the mushroom's head that give ample sunlight," he said.
The mushroom was able to create a current of about 65 nanoAmps. Although the mushroom isn't strong enough to power a device, researchers say several of them could build up enough electrical current to light up an LED.
In a statement, Mannoor said the study could pave the way for larger opportunities involving bio-electricity. "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."
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