Apart from being the house of Smurfs and a good ingredient for almost any pasta sauce, portobello mushrooms seem to have a whole new aspect to them. They can be used to power the world.
Our cell phones, laptops, and electric cars all use lithium-ion batteries for power. They are better than normal batteries in terms of size, weight and power consumption, but their real problem is their production. It is very expensive and quite wasteful, as it uses graphite going through an expensive process.
In order to solve this problem, scientists came up with a very innovative way to produce lithium-ion batteries. It is what you have already imagined: Portobello mushrooms!
Dr. Cengiz Ozkan and dr. Mihri Ozkan, engineering professors at the University of California Riverside, working with a small group of graduate students, came up with this solution for battery production. Portobello mushrooms are a great fit because they have the characteristic of being porous, which means that they have a lot of space for energy to be stored up. Also, an upside compared to graphite is that mushrooms have a great percentage of potassium salt. This creates new pores all the time, whereas graphite can erode or degrade over time. That means that the battery of mushrooms can actually improve when aging.
The demand for lithium-ion batteries is constantly rising and the way that they have been up to now produced is way too damaging to the environment. The Ozkan couple has been trying to find an alternative, “green” solution for the past 8 years, and they seem to be getting closer. Let’s hope that mushrooms’ lives get an upgrade from being the basis of a veggie burger!