The project management is responsible for the content of the information provided.
This project is one of the seven winners of the call 2019 «Microbials – Direct Use of Micro-Organisms». Project partners: Bio-engineered Wood group and the Cellulose Biohybrids group from the Cellulose & Wood Materials laboratory at Empa.
Project no: GRS-081/19
Amount of funding: CHF 300'000
Duration: 04.2020 - 03.2023
Area of activity:
Microbials, seit 2016
The development of green, low-cost and disposable micro power sources that can be self-sustainable are highly needed in the field of biobatteries, ingestible medical devices, wearable sensors, and smart textiles. Moreover, the improvement of small-scale devices that can be globally used to temporarily collect real-time information from the environment are highly required. To achieve a fully biodegradable battery we will develop water-based inks composed of cellulose and cellulose derivatives. For this purpose, two generations of biobatteries using fungi as oxidation catalyst will be manufactured; (i) The first generation will target short single use operation and will stop working when the provided source of nutrients is depleted by the fungus. (ii) The second generation will have an extended lifetime owing to the combination of fungi and microalgae working in symbiosis - the microalgae will provide the carbon source for the fungus and the fungus will provide the mineral nutrients for the microalgae - to ensure extended operation for continuous sensing functionality. This generation of biobattery will continuously operate until it is decomposed into its surroundings. The biobattery will be made of a continuous nanocellulose sheet that the user will assemble in a simple two-step folding process, and activated by providing a small volume (~1 mL) of water to the dormant microorganisms. The objective is that the results of this project leads to an Empa spin-off company that aims to bring the developed fungal biobatteries to the market.
What is special about the project?
This project aims at solving the key challenge to develop a reliable technology that can autonomously and efficiently provide stable electrical supply even in resource-limited environments. Additionally, a successful development of green, low-cost and disposable power source that can be self-sustainable may assist in moving the research and technological developments within the fields of environmental sensing, ingestible medical devices, wearable sensors, and smart textiles forward.
During the first year, we have performed the screening of different fungi with potential metabolism that can be used for our biobatteries concept. The enzymatic pathways of the fungal metabolism have been fully characterized and the optimized conditions for the growth of the selected fungi have been identified. Additionally, printing conditions and viability of the selected fungi by using cellulose-based inks have been fully optimized. Studies on the interactions of fungus-microalgae species are currently under evaluation.
During the second year, our studies of the interactions and co-culture of white rot fungi and freshwater microalgae have been finalized showing their symbiotic growth in cellulose gels and compatibility with 3D printing for integration in biobatteries. Additionally, printing of a custom developed current collector has been realized as well as printing, growth and electrochemical characterization of fungi in conductive carbon-based inks to be used as electrodes in the biobatteries. The design of final printed biobattery demonstrators has also been initiated.
None so far
Persons involved in the project
Dr. Gustav Nyström
, Projekt Leader, Head of the Laboratory for Cellulose and Wood Materials and Head of the Cellulose Biohybrids group at EmpaDr. Carolina Reyes
, Research Scientist in the Cellulose Biohybrids group at Empa.Prof. Dr. Francis W.M.R. Schwarze
, Head of the Bio-engineered Wood group at Empa, adjunct professor at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany) and founder of MycoSolutions AG (Switzerland)Dr. Javier Ribera
, External Project Advisor
Last update to this project presentation 17.01.2023