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Bread Mold may be Used for Better Rechargeable Battery, Says Study

Mar 21, 2016 11:10 AM EDT
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It's hard to think that the fungi that make bread moldy can actually be used to build a rechargeable battery. But a recent study showed that it could actually happen.

Published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology, a study showed that the fungus Neurospora crassa can transform manganese into a composite with sustainable electrochemical properties for better batteries.

While fungi are not necessarily well-liked, the team has long been studying their ability to transform metals and minerals to put to use. Other studies showed that fungi can stabilize uranium and toxic lead, which leaves scientists to wonder what positive surprises they can still offer.

Geoffrey Gadd of Scotland's University of Dundee led the team of researchers that found out that the new biotechnological process can be utilized in different ways in the long run.

A EurekAlert report explained that in their study, the team incubated the fungi with urea and manganese chloride (MnCl2). They found out that the fungal filaments, or hyphae, became biomineralized. Further studies showed that the fungi have "ideal electrochemical properties" that can be used for supercapacitors or lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are common in portable devices, such as flashlights, mobile phones and laptops. They are also used by electric cars and electric wheelchairs, because they are light weight.

Gadd said his team were surprised to find that the composite worked so well. He said that their system showed an "excellent cycling ability" and a retention of "more than 90% capacity" even after 200 cycles, when compared to other similar oxides in lithium-ion batteries.

Fungi continue to show promise in different uses, such as in Ikea's recent move for fungi packaging.

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