Scientists at the University of California, Riverside, have just turned a portobello mushroom into a rechargeable battery.
Their paper, published in Nature Scientific Reports, describes a recipe to make a functioning battery from cooked sections of the Portabello mushroom’s cap. The technology may one day offer an alternative to the rechargeable batteries currently used in mobile phones and other portable electronics. What’s more, unlike conventional batteries, which degrade as they age, this one may get better with usage.
The idea of using biological material to store energy is nothing new. Rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries are usually made with graphite, a mineral of pure carbon, which has to be expensively treated with hazardous chemicals before use. Living tissue has been recognized for some years as a potentially cheaper, environmentally friendly alternative.
But the Portabello has an advantage over regular living tissue. It’s spongy.
A battery works by converting stored chemical energy into electrical energy when connected in a circuit. According to this paper, hundreds of tiny pores that give the mushroom its spongy texture also make it highly efficient at storing and transferring this energy, particularly when cooked to a toasty 1,100°C.
And that’s not all. The Portabello also has a high potassium content, which the team says makes the little pores more accessible with every charge and discharge, increasing the mushroom’s storage and transfer capacities over time.
“With battery materials like this, future cell phones may see an increase in run time after many uses, rather than a decrease,” explained Brennan Campbell, a graduate student at UC Riverside and first author on the paper.
Following the EU’s recent warning that current levels of graphite processing will soon become unsustainable, the “high-performance, extremely cheap, and environmentally benign” battery described in this paper certainly seems appealing.
Whether it will make your phone smell like a mushroom burger remains to be tested.