Mushroom Eats Plastic, Saves Planet

A rare and exotic mushroom, Pestalotiopsis microspora, feasts upon the waste plastic that careless humans have strewn about the planet.


(Save us from ourselves, Pestalotiopsis microspora!)

The idea came from a 2012 study by researchers at Yale University, who found a rare mushroom in the Amazon called Pestalotiopsis microspora that was capable of breaking down polyurethane - the main ingredient used in plastics. Not only could this fungus live entirely off polyurethane, it could do so in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment that resembles the bottom of a landfill.

As it turns out, species of plastic-eating fungus are actually pretty common, and together with fellow designer Julia Kaisinger and scientists from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, Unger identified two that would be perfect for their device: Pleurotus ostreatus - aka the oyster mushroom - and Schizophyllum commune, a species that's listed as inedible in the UK and US, but is popular in parts of Mexico and India.

The device features a series of little white cups that are made from agar (seaweed-derived gelatin), starch, and sugar, and thin slices of plastic waste that have been previously sterilised with UV light are placed inside. The mycelium (or roots) of P. ostreatus and S. commune mushrooms are dropped into the cups, and as they grow, they feed off the plastic waste and nutrients in the cup walls.

"In just a few weeks, fungi begins to grow out of the pods, using the plastic to feed its development," Fiona MacDonald reported for us back in 2014. "After several months, the plastic will be completely decomposed and you’re left with nothing but an agar cup filled with edible fluffy white mycelium."

A similar scenario forms the basis for the 1971 novel Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters by Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler:

"In the shaft leading to the [ventilation] grille a mindless, groping mass of malodorous corruption was thrusting its way silently towards the surface. Buoyed up by bubbling foam it steadily rose. Single units in an obscene abrogation of normal order divided and made two. Two became four and four, eight. Endlessly supplied with food, each unit absorbed nutrient and in a soft, ancient certainty fulfilled its only purpose - to multiply, to extend and to multiply...

"In the Coburg Street control room of the London Underground system,there was a full emergency... In a dozen tunnels, trains ground down to a halt. Hordes of terrified commuters made their way anxiously along dark, musty tunnels to the lights and safety of the next station. There were minor explosions, fires, and the failure of a million wires andcables. As the dissolution of plastic proceeded and accelerated in rate,the elegant order of the system gradually turned into complete chaos.

"On the surface, in the freezing December air, the smell of the rotting plastic began to hang permanently in the air. A cloying, wet, rotting smell similar to the smell of long-dead flesh. It filled streets , basements and factories. Traffic lights failed, causing irresolvable jams.... The breakdown of plastic spread into BroadcastingHouse.... A gas main with polypropylene seals on its pressure regulatorserupted into flame.... Plastic cold-water pipes softened, ballooned, andburst, flooding into shops, homes, and restaurants.

"Slowly and inexorably, the rate of dissolution increased; failures occurred in increasing succession until, within forty-eight hours, the centre of London had become a freezing chaos without light, heat, or communication."
(Thanks to Winchell Chung for mentioning this.)

Via ScienceAlert.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/5/2019)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Mushroom Eats Plastic, Saves Planet
Fungus Amongus, SaveUs!

Is There Extraterrestrial Life Here In The Solar System
'How fast is it moving? ...one meter per minute.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1982.

Chinese Fern Helps Remediate Arsenic Soil
'Bioengeering had put out a spec report on the long crawly things five months back.' - Gregory Benford, 1983.

New Lifelike Material Powered By Artificial Metabolism
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Neural Net Discovers Antibiotic
'...instantly the TEMS was ... creating and discarding scores of new sciences.'

China Delivery Robot Development Quickens During COVID-2019 Outbreak
'Something very much like a camouflage-painted kangaroo.'

Via Virtual Reality, Mother Encounters Deceased Daughter
'But that barrier was going to melt away someday soon. The transhumanists had promised...'

Clothes That Do Photosynthesis
'Clothes are no longer made from dead fibers of fixed color and texture...'

Stratuscent Electronic Nose
'It's picking up diphenyl compounds and tetra hydrocarbons.'

CIMON Companion Robot For Space Station Astronauts
'... in some departments their power is absolute.'

Qbit Robot Bartender Also Makes Coffee
'...he sipped the cognac that the robot bartender handed him.'

Moving Desks Not SciFi After All
'Charged with hope, he zipped from stack to stack...'

Cruise Autonomous Car Drives Aimlessly For An Hour
Convincing video shows progress (and limitations).

Fast Charging A Bus In 20 Seconds
'... in almost every town and village.'

Realistic Translation With The Waverly Labs Ambassador
'The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish.'

Biotech Firms Raised $Millions For Anti-Agathics (Longevity Drugs)
'Against Death doth no simple grow.'

Out-Of-Work Blue Collar Robots Need Your Help
'His legs relaxed with a rattle as he cut off all power below his waist... and ran his eye down the Help Wanted - Robot column...'

The Dawn Of Orbiting Manufacturing In 2020?
'It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories.'

Smart Contact Lenses Charges With 3D Printed Antenna
'He realized that it was not quite a clear lens.'

Segway S-Pod Fulfills Dire 1928 SciFi Prophecy
'Noiselessly, on rubber-tired wheels, they journeyed down the long aisles...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.