A type of fungus found at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster has been sent into space in a research project aimed at keeping astronauts safe from radiation in deep space missions.
“The biggest danger to humans on deep space exploration missions is radiation,” the scientists explain in a paper excerpt uploaded to the BioRxiv biological print server for biology. The fungus, which is thriving at the Chernobyl site, appears to perform “radiosynthesis” using melanin to convert gamma radiation into chemical energy.
The impact of radiation is of particular concern for long-term space flow in places like Mars.
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Scientists from the University of North Carolina Charlotte, Stanford University and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics set up the research project, which used the fungus Cladosporium sphaerospermum. A petri dish containing the fungus was monitored by astronauts on the International Space Station, according to Phys.org.
“The growth of Cladosporium sphaerospermum and its ability to dampen ionizing radiation, has been studied aboard the International Space Station (ISS) over a 30-day period, as an analogue to the surface of Mars , ”the researchers explained in the abstract published in the bioRxiv.
The study found that the fungus can be grown in space.
“By designing a subtle but simple experimental setup, implemented as a single small load, it can be shown that the melanized fungus C. sphaerospermum can be cultivated in LOE [Low Earth Orbit], while being subject to the unique microgravity and radiation environment of the ISS, “the researchers wrote.” Growth traits have further suggested that the fungus not only adapts to and thrives on and catches up against radiation in space, according to analogous Earth-based studies. “
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Other innovative research related to the Chernobyl disaster is underway.
Earlier this year, for example, researchers at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom announced the development of materials they say could be used to help decommission Chernobyl nuclear reactor sites and the Chernobyl nuclear reactor site. Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. The materials, developed with scientists in Ukraine, could simulate Fuel-containing Materials (LFCMs) that are hampering decommissioning efforts at nuclear disaster sites, say the researchers.
“LFCMs are a mixture of highly molten radioactive nuclear fuel and building materials that come together during a nuclear breakdown,” the researchers explained in a statement. However, few samples of the hazardous material are available for study, so the simulated material may help scientists plan future decommissioning efforts at nuclear sites.
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The research is published in the journal Nature Materials Degradation.
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