Scientists Used This Mushroom to Generate Electricity From Light

mushroom electricity

Scientists have bio-engineered a mushroom to generate electricity through photosynthesis as an organic alternative energy source. While the mushroom produced a relatively small amount of energy – less than what would be needed to power a lightbulb – it presents an opportunity for further development that could potentially lead to an entirely clean and organic fuel source.

A team, led by postdoctoral researcher Sudeep Joshi at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, used a bio-ink to 3D print cyanobacteria – a microbe capable of turning light into electrical energy – onto the cap of a mushroom. They then shone a light on the mushroom’s surface, finding the bacteria generated small amounts of electricity.

The cyanobacteria used in their experiment has excited scientists, due to its ability to synthesize electricity from sunlight, though on artificial surfaces it doesn’t fare so well — hence the mushroom medium.

The mushroom’s surface provides nutrients for the bacteria to thrive, creating a diverse microbiota, similar to bacteria that thrive in our gut. The team is hopeful their research could one day be scaled by finding a method to pack bacteria more densely and by wiring a collection of mushrooms together. They say several mushrooms wired in this fashion could power a small lamp.

“Right now we are using cyanobacteria from the pond, but you can genetically engineer them and you can change their molecules to produce higher photo currents, via photosynthesis,” Joshi told the BBC.

“It’s a new start; we call it engineered symbiosis. If we do more research, we can really push this field forward to have some type of effective green technology.”

Mushrooms and different types of fungi have been found to be effective treatments for a number of environmental issues ranging from saving bee populations from myriad threats, to breaking down plastics, and cleaning up oil spills. This latest discovery may just prove that mushrooms can provide yet another solution to help us live cleaner, more efficient lives.

One of the foremost experts in the field of mycology pioneering many of these fungal solutions is Paul Stamets, who runs the website Fungi Perfecti. Stamets considers the vast networks of mycelia – the roots of a mushroom that can populate a cubic inch of soil with 8 miles of cells – to be the internet infrastructure of our planet’s consciousness. In fact, mushroom mycelia are the largest living organisms on the planet, making the prospect of using them for energy all the more exciting.

Additionally, bacteria and other microorganisms such as archaea, are some of the oldest lifeforms on Earth, most of which have not been yet studied by humans. This leaves an incredible amount of potential to use them to solve some of the major environmental and energy crises of our era.

 

For more on the myriad mushroom potential, watch this episode of Inspirations with Lisa Garr and Paul Stamets: 



Earth's Magnetic Field is Shifting and Geologists Don't Know Why

pulsed electromagnetic frequencies tuned to the earth

Something strange is happening with the Earth’s magnetic field and scientists are unsure why, according to a recent paper published in the journal Nature. A consortium of geologists in charge of the World Magnetic Model is having trouble keeping track of the planet’s magnetic north pole as it rapidly shifts from Canada to Northern Siberia.

Scientists updated Earth’s magnetic model in 2015, which is used for some pretty important things, including shipping navigation and GPS on smartphones. Their model was intended to last for at least five years, but due to the recent unexpected swing, it became outdated at some point in early 2018 and is now in need of adjustment.

“The error is increasing all the time,” said Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Scientists say this shift is being driven by liquid iron sloshing around in the planet’s core, a natural process, but one that can vary as the flow changes. Over the past 20 million years, Earth’s magnetic field has consistently experienced a complete pole reversal – usually every 200-300,000 years.

At the moment, we’re long overdue for one of these events, with the last reversal having occurred 781,000 years ago. No one is quite sure what the consequences will be on modern infrastructure when and if that reversal happens. Many take ease in the fact that pole reversals have occurred hundreds of times in the planet’s history without catastrophe, but again, the effect on modern technology remains unknown.

Some scientists have pointed to this shift as a potential culprit in a slew of recent dolphin and whale beachings as well as other unexpected animal die-offs. It’s believed the planet’s natural magnetic field is necessary to some of these animals’ navigation when traveling and communicating over great distances underwater. One NASA scientist is currently looking into this potential connection.

In 2016, a larger-than-usual magnetic pulse shot up from South America, which scientists believe played a role in furthering the recent shift. However, they’re still unsure whether it will continue on this course, or even what will happen at all.

Could we be on the precipice of a massive geomagnetic reversal, or is this just due to slightly-more-anomalous-than-usual activity in the Earth’s core? And what’s even more pressing – what kind of effects is this having on us?

 

For more on our brain’s relationship with Earth’s magnetic field, check out this Gaia Original short:

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