By on April 21, 2016


Besides making steaks seem fancy and sending rebellious teens to the furthest reaches of the galaxy, it turns out mushrooms have another use.

Fibers from a type of wild mushroom outperformed graphite anodes on lithium-ion batteries, Wards Auto reports, a finding that surprised researchers at Purdue University.

As electric cars slowly proliferate, the knowledge could revolutionize the future of high-capacity batteries.

Unlike the mushrooms preferred by your ziplock bag-wielding friend, the Tyromyces fissilis needs to be modified before it can be useful. The dense fibers can be turned into pure carbon via high temperatures and argon gas, and used to ferry electrons into (or out of) a battery via its terminals.

Faster electron transfer means faster recharging times.

“Current state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries must be improved in both energy density and power output to meet the future energy storage demand in electric vehicles and grid energy-storage technologies,” Vilas Pol, an associate professor at Purdue, told Wards Auto. “So there is a dire need to develop new anode materials with superior performance.”

By adding cobalt oxide particles to the carbonized ‘shroom fibers, the material has a capacity of 530 milliamp hours per gram, or 1.5 times greater than the graphite normally used in battery anodes.

The discovery was made by a doctoral student who noticed a mushroom growing on an old stump and decided to take a closer look. See, this is why scientists need access to kitchens and backyards.

[Image: Iain Farrell/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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17 Comments on “The Future of Batteries is a Far-Out Trip, Man...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The Next Great Battery Breakthrough is always 5 years away.

    • 0 avatar

      From what I’m learning, one particular company that I’m close to says it takes 4-5 years to go from lab to mass production – at least with their technology. They’ve moved their product from lab to pilot production. They don’t think they’ll have volume production until 2020. I’m not important enough to get my hands on one of the early cells, but that may change soon. They’re talking about 5 times density improvement and eliminating the 22 hour drying process from lithium battery production. Nothing with magic mushrooms, just improvements in current lithium technology.

      Another thing is that anyone with real workable technology keeps quiet about it for competitive reasons. Look at how LG got upset with GM for revealing that they were paying $145/kWh for cells. If a manufacturer has an upcoming 800 mile EV that they want to keep quiet about, they don’t want the competition figuring out what’s coming by calculating the density and cost of batteries coming from their supplier. Well, at least that’s my theory.

    • 0 avatar

      And seem to involve ever increasing amounts of mind bending technologies of the mushroom and lavalamp kind, as time goes by…..

      “Anti-aging” therapies follow the same rule. They have now abandoned the “what we thought were cool in our youth” stage, in favor of stemcells harvested from aborted fetuses in Haiti. Soon to change to Jamaica, because of, like, Hemp.

      Aging boomers have all the money, and none of the clue, after all. If you want them to hand some of the former over, you’ve gotta get them excited…

    • 0 avatar

      The breakthroughs in Li-ion battery cells over the last few years seems to be concentrated in the area of cost reduction, with modest performance improvements.

      This is better than the other way around. Make them inexpensive first, then worry about making them better.

  • avatar

    Tyromyces fissilis looks quite different from the photo which is amanita muscaria. Amanita muscaria is powerfully psychoactive, with trips including nausea and vomiting. So make sure no one doses your car with the muscaria.

  • avatar

    Old news.

  • avatar

    The mushroom pictured, amanita muscaria, known as the “fly agaric”, is used by Mongolian shamans to enter trance states. I wrote a thesis on hallucinogenic drug rituals and nothing I’ve read leads me to believe that amanita is anything like an enjoyable recreational drug, nor is it widely used as such. The active ingredient, muscimol, inhibits the neurotransmitter GABA.

    Now psilocybin mushrooms, on the other hand, those are a different story. The active ingredients, psilocybin and psilocin, are indole amines, related to DMT and part of the same general family as LSD and Mescaline, but usually not as intense an experience. It’s a drug that probably should be in the legal pharmacopia. In low dosages it might work as well as an anti-depressant as SSRIs do.

    Psilocybin mushrooms are widely cultivated and ingested for recreational purposes.

  • avatar

    Kudos to the researchers at my alma mater, Purdue University. I understand that researchers in Purdue’s animal sciences department also made a breakthrough. After many hundreds of hours experimenting with sheep, they came up with a new use for sheep that they never thought of before. Wool.

  • avatar

    Ummmm….excuse me here folks. But shouldn’t the DISPOSAL of these planet saving batteries be examined?

    In all these eco-greenie Tesla planet saving stories…it seems the long term issue with battery tech in never addressed.
    So not only do we gloss over the fact the electricity is made in ways the Earth is damaged, so is the way it is stored.

    THis is professional malpractice and bias on the part of the media today. And this includes the so called car professional reviewers.

    This is all going to be laughed at, and likely scorned in the years to come.

    This is gonna look and sound like 1950 sci-fi movie plots.

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