‘Bionic mushrooms’ fuse nanotech, micro organism and fungi — Scie…
Of their newest feat of engineering, researchers at Stevens Institute of Know-how have taken an peculiar white button mushroom from a grocery retailer and made it bionic, supercharging it with 3D-printed clusters of cyanobacteria that generate electrical energy and swirls of graphene nanoribbons that may accumulate the present.
The work, reported within the Nov. 7 challenge of Nano Letters, could sound like one thing straight out of Alice in Wonderland, however the hybrids are a part of a broader effort to raised enhance our understanding of cells organic equipment and easy methods to use these intricate molecular gears and levers to manufacture new applied sciences and helpful techniques for protection, healthcare and the surroundings.
“In this case, our system — this bionic mushroom — produces electricity,” stated Manu Mannoor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stevens. “By integrating cyanobacteria that can produce electricity, with nanoscale materials capable of collecting the current, we were able to better access the unique properties of both, augment them, and create an entirely new functional bionic system.”
Cyanobacteria’s skill to provide electrical energy is well-known in bioengineering circles. Nevertheless, researchers have been restricted in utilizing these microbes in bioengineered techniques as a result of cyanobacteria don’t survive lengthy on synthetic bio-compatible surfaces. Mannoor and Sudeep Joshi, a postdoctoral fellow in his lab, puzzled if white button mushrooms, which naturally host a wealthy microbiota however not cyanobacteria particularly, might present the appropriate surroundings — vitamins, moisture, pH and temperature — for the cyanobacteria to provide electrical energy for an extended interval.
Mannoor and Joshi confirmed that the cyanobacterial cells lasted a number of days longer when positioned on the cap of a white button mushroom versus a silicone and useless mushroom as appropriate controls. “The mushrooms essentially serve as a suitable environmental substrate with advanced functionality of nourishing the energy producing cyanobacteria,” says Joshi. “We showed for the first time that a hybrid system can incorporate an artificial collaboration, or engineered symbiosis, between two different microbiological kingdoms.”
Mannoor and Joshi used a robotic arm-based 3D printer to first print an “electronic ink” containing the graphene nanoribbons. This printed branched community serves as an electricity-collecting community atop the mushroom’s cap by appearing like a nano-probe — to entry bio-electrons generated contained in the cyanobacterial cells. Think about needles sticking right into a single cell to entry electrical alerts inside it, explains Mannoor.
Subsequent, they printed a” bio-ink” containing cyanobacteria onto the mushroom’s cap in a spiral sample intersecting with the digital ink at a number of contact factors. At these places, electrons might switch by the outer membranes of the cyanobacteria to the conductive community of graphene nanoribbons. Shining a light-weight on the mushrooms activated cyanobacterial photosynthesis, producing a photocurrent.
Along with the cyanobacteria residing longer in a state of engineered symbiosis, Mannoor and Joshi confirmed that the quantity of electrical energy these micro organism produce can differ relying on the density and alignment with which they’re packed, such that the extra densely packed collectively they’re, the extra electrical energy they produce. With 3D printing, it was attainable to assemble them in order to spice up their electricity-producing exercise eight-fold greater than the casted cyanobacteria utilizing a laboratory pipette.
Lately, just a few researchers have 3D printed bacterial cells in several spatial geometrical patterns, however Mannoor and Joshi, in addition to co-author Ellexis Prepare dinner, are usually not solely the primary to sample it to reinforce their electricity-generating habits but additionally combine it to develop a useful bionic structure.
“With this work, we can imagine enormous opportunities for next-generation bio-hybrid applications,” Mannoor says. “For example, some bacteria can glow, while others sense toxins or produce fuel. 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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