3D printed mushroom hat made of bacteria generates electricity

There are some mundane projects out there that aim to find an alternate way to produce electricity using things like solar power or wind. Then there is the new project that researchers Manu Mannoor and Sudeep Joshi from Stevens Institute of Technology devised that involves a 3D printed network on the cap of a living mushroom to generate electricity. The pair sees their creation as a symbiosis between the mushroom and cyanobacteria.

The scientists say in their scenario the mushroom gives shelter, moisture, and nutrients while the 3D printed bacteria on the mushroom's cap supplies energy by photosynthesis. Graphene nanoribbons printed along with the bacteria capture electrons that are released by the microbes during photosynthesis, producing bio-electricity.

The first step was the 3D printing of electronic ink that has graphene nanoribbons inside onto the cap of a living mushroom using a branched pattern. The team then printed a bio-ink with cyanobacteria inside onto the cap in a spiral pattern, this is the green swirl.

When a light is shined on the mushroom, the cyanobacterial photosynthesis is activated and generates a current of about 65 nanoamps. The team admits that this level of current is insufficient to power an electronic device.

The scientists do say that an array of bionic mushrooms could generate enough current to light an LED. The team is currently working on ways to create higher currents using their system.