Can Bread Mold Make a Better Rechargeable Battery?

A recent study conducted by the University of Dundee revealed that the unwanted fungi that turns our bread moldy contains ideal electromechanical properties that can be used to make efficient rechargeable batteries when subjected to biomineralization process.

A group of researchers headed by Professor Geoffrey Gadd found that the red bread mould scientifically known as Neurospora crassa has the ability to transform metals and minerals into useful components to build a supercapacitor or lithium-ion batteries. The fungus exhibits an excellent electromechanical properties after it underwent series of intense heating processes combined with urea and manganese chloride. The biomineralized product then produces a mixture of carbonised biomass and manganese oxides.

“We have made electrochemically active materials using a fungal manganese biomineralization process. The electrochemical properties of the carbonised fungal biomass-mineral composite were tested in a supercapacitor and a lithium-ion battery, and the composite was found to have excellent electrochemical properties. This system therefore suggests a novel biotechnological method for the preparation of sustainable electrochemical materials,” explained Gadd, who leads the Geomicrobiology Group at the University of Dundee.

Gadd further said, “we had the idea that the decomposition of such biomineralized carbonates into oxides might provide a novel source of metal oxides that have significant electrochemical properties.”

It was not the first time that Gadd’s team performed studies regarding the ability of fungi to convert metals and minerals to useful elements. Their previous studies also showed the role of fungi in stabilizing toxic lead and uranium. Both studies proved that fungi can transform dangerous elements, such as lead and uranium, into a mineral form.

“We were surprised that the prepared biomass-Mn oxide composite performed so well. In comparison to other reported manganese oxides in lithium-ion batteries, the carbonised fungal biomass-mineral composite showed an excellent cycling stability and more than 90% capacity was retained after 200 cycles,” Gadd added.

Fungi play a significant role in metal and mineral biotransformation. The demonstration conducted by Gadd’s team is the first to show how a fungal biomineralization process can create active electrode materials which can be very useful in increasing the performance of supercapacitors and batteries.

According to Professor Gadd, the team plans to continue their research to know more of the other usage of fungi in the formation of beneficial metal carbonates. The further investigation could greatly improve the process for obtaining useful biomaterials from fungi and gives a promising power solution in the near future.

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