By: April Carson
Scientists have recently managed to use fungi as a powerful computing material. This breakthrough has opened up many possibilities for the tech world, with experts hailing it as a major step forward in the march of technological progress. Fungi-based computers are known to be extremely efficient and reliable, making them highly attractive options for commercial and industrial applications.
Not only can foraging fungi give us a delicious dish, but new research has also revealed that mushroom skins could be used as an environmentally-friendly replacement for certain plastics like those found in batteries and chips. This biodegradable option makes it simpler to recycle these products, lessening their impact on the planet.
Incidentally, researchers from the Johannes Kepler University in Austria were conducting research on stretchable electronics with a focus on environmentally friendly materials to replace non-degradable ones when they made their findings. Martin Kaltenbrunner, head of the university’s Division of Soft Matter Physics and co-author for this paper published in Science Advances, expressed his excitement for their findings. “Fungi have the potential to revolutionize computing,” he said.
The team of researchers used an extremophilic fungus called G. Rosea to create their prototype computers due to its unique ability to survive extreme temperatures and radiation without being damaged. They developed a way to use transistors made out of hyphae, a type of fungal thread, to gain control over the system’s current and voltage.
During this time, one of our teams was exploring how to use fungal materials for other applications. Their research culminated in this most recent study that demonstrates Ganoderma lucidum mushroom skin could be used as an alternative substrate for electrical circuits.
Non-degradable plastics frequently serve as the foundation of a circuit, providing insulation and cooling to the metals that sit atop it. Regrettably, these substrates are discarded after their single use. But with the help of Ganoderma lucidum mushroom skin, this problem could potentially be avoided.
Doris Danninger and Roland Pruckner, a duo of scientists from the Institute for Experimental Physics at the university, uncovered that mushrooms commonly found on rotting hardwood trees in Europe and East Asia develop an armor of mycelium (a root-like network) to shield their growth medium (the wood).
To guard themselves against foreign fungi and bacteria, Kaltenbrunner revealed that the team was able to procure this protecting insulation by stripping away their skin and drying it.
The duo then used this mushroom skin to create a computer that has shown remarkable feats in computing capability. The substrate of the computer is made of hyphae, which form a network that indicates information through electrical pulses activated when the fungal cells detect outside stimuli.
The study found that the skin's insulation was slightly less than plastic, yet still surpassed expectations when tested in electrical circuits. Its thickness resembled paper while being able to withstand excessively high temperatures of over 200° Celsius (392° Fahrenheit), making it a reliable and practical substrate material.
Not only do skins have numerous distinguishing features compared to other biodegradable materials, but they can be cultivated from waste wood - a process that is not energy-demanding or expensive, Kaltenbrunner noted.
This marks the first time that fungal cells were used to construct a computer. The study's findings show promise for future developments on this front, as it could lead to an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional electronics. In addition, these computers can be tailored to specific needs, ranging from medical diagnostics to environmental monitoring.
Although the team's work is in its early stages and far from being available for large-scale manufacturing, they believe that their biodegradable skin technology could be a sustainable option to create electronics such as wearable health monitors and near-field communication (NFC) tags. Such items do not require long-lasting electrical circuits which makes them ideal for this new form of material.
The researchers believe that their work will eventually lead to an evolution in the way electronics are produced, allowing for more sustainable alternatives to traditional methods. This could be an invaluable contribution to the fight against climate change and other environmental issues. Ultimately, this innovative technology might enable us to create powerful computers with a minimal impact on our planet.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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