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Scientists have discovered a form of fungus capable of “eating” radiation and turning it into energy. The fungus has been found growing near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Scientists have been planning on growing the fungus onboard the International Space Station to see if the fungus could one day teach us how to convert radiation into energy that can help power vehicles, spacecraft, and more.
The fungus’ capability to thrive on radiation has been known in the science community since at least 2007. The type of fungus found in Chernobyl is capable of decomposing radioactive material, such as the still deadly hot graphite that remains in Chernobyl’s reactor. The fungus grows in the most radioactive places.
The fungus is capable of processing radiation due to its very dark melanin pigment. The melanin absorbs radiation and processes it to produce energy. Popularmechanics.com mentions that scientists believe that they could mimic this natural occurance to develop something capable of blocking radiation and converting radiation into a renewable energy source.
Nuclear material has the tendency to stay fatal for thousands of years. Being able to harness the fungus’ power to convert deadly radiation into renewable energy would be a massive gamechanger for the civilian and the military industry, not to mention the ability to clean out dangerous nuclear waste from areas such as Chernobyl.
Scientists now plan to grow the fungus onboard the International Space Station (ISS) in order to research its potential. The radiation onboard the ISS is relatively low, however it is still high relative to Earth’s surface. Therefore, growing fungus there could reveal new discoveries regarding the fungus’ nature, such as if the fungus can help humanity overcome the cosmic radiation in space.
There are also forms of bacteria that thrive on radiation as well. These unique bacteria and fungi may hold the key to renewable energy, as well as weakening the deadly effects of radiation on the human body and electronics.
The unique ability of these organisms to survive in such deadly conditions warrants increased research for a wide range of fields including medicine, engineering, and energy production.