Mushroom Armor: Mushrooms as Nanofactories

To begin with, it is worth remembering that catalysts are substances that accelerate the course of a chemical reaction. In modern industry, catalysts can hardly be dispensed with - and, as a rule, they are metal particles, on the surface of which the desired reaction takes place, without affecting the metal itself. It is clear that the effectiveness of the catalyst depends on its surface area, and in this sense, experts have high hopes for the use of metal nanoparticles with a particularly high ratio of area to volume.

Unfortunately, the catalytic properties of nanoparticles are often quite strange (read, for example: "The Riddle of Gold"). In addition, in this case, it is necessary to create special tools and methods that prevent the adhesion of nanoparticles, as well as technologies for separating the nanocatalyst from the reaction products.

To help with these problems, the study of our partners on the planet - mushrooms, conducted by German scientist Alexander Eychmüller (Alexander Eychmüller) and his colleagues can help. They managed to find that fungi, as they grow and develop, absorb metal ions from the environment and form stable nanoparticles from them, which are included in the composition of the mycelium filaments.

Growing various common mushrooms in the laboratory (including those from the genus Penicillium ), scientists fed them a nutrient medium containing gold, silver, platinum or palladium. After 2 months, the fungi were examined under a scanning electron microscope - and it was noticed that their mycelium was covered with “armor” of stable metal nanoparticles up to 200 nm thick. At the same time, the mushrooms seemed to feel fine in such a “crust”, although in principle these noble metals have widely known disinfecting properties. This surprised and interested scientists.

What seems especially important from a technological point of view, several layers of nanoparticles 10–20 nm in size each formed “armor”, while the particles did not stick together and retained all their catalytic abilities. Apparently, they are also used by mushrooms: acting as an effective catalyst, such nanoparticles contribute to the accelerated chemical destruction of microorganisms on the surface of the mycelium.

Published by New Scientist Tech


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