New Jersey researchers have integrated microorganisms with nanomaterials to produce electricity through the sponge, which has led to the development of symbiosis that could lead to design bio-hybrid materials.
The team at the Stevens Institute of Technology achieved this by covering a white mushroom fungus with 3D printed cycles of cyanobacteria that produce electricity and graphite nanoribons that collect current.
The work he reports Nano Letters, is part of a wider effort to understand and exploit cell biology to produce new technologies.
"In this case, our system – this bionic fungus – produces electricity," said Manu Mannoor, assistant professor of engineering at Stevens. "By integrating cyanobacteria that can produce electricity with nanomaterials capable of collecting current, we have been able to better access the unique properties of both, increase them and create an entirely new functional bionic system."
The white mushroom button hosts a rich microflora, but not a cyanobacteria specifically, to incite Mannoor and a postdoctoral colleague, Sudeep Joshi, to ask whether agaricus bisporus could provide nutrients, moisture, pH and temperature for cyanobacteria to produce electricity for a longer period of time.
Mannoor and Joshi showed that cyanobacterial cells lasted a few days longer when they were placed on the white buttonhole cap compared to silicone and dead mushrooms used as controls.
"Fungi basically serves as a suitable ecological substrate with advanced nutrition of energy-producing cyanobacteria," Joshi said. "For the first time, we have shown that a hybrid system may involve artificial collaboration or synthetic techniques between two different microbiological kingdoms."
Mannoor and Joshi first printed a 3D "electronic ink" containing graphite nanoribons to form a branched net that collects electricity.
They then printed a "bio-ink" containing cyanobacteria on a sponge cap in a spiral pattern that stretched with electronic ink. At these locations, the electrons could be transmitted through the cyanobacteria 'outer membranes to a conductive network of graphite nanoribons. The light on the mushrooms activates cyanobacterial photosynthesis and generates photocultures.
In addition to cyanobacteria that live longer in a modified symbiosis state, Mannoor and Joshi have shown that the amount of electricity produced by these bacteria may vary, depending on the density and alignment with which they are packaged: the more they are densely packed, the more they produce electricity . Thanks to 3D printing, it was possible to assemble them to increase their electricity production eightfold.
"With this work we can imagine huge opportunities for new-generation bio-hybrid applications," Mannoor said. "For example, some bacteria can shine while other senses of toxins or produce fuel.With seamless integration of these microbes with nanomaterials, we could realize a number of other awesome designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defense, health care and many other areas.
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