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Microbiology

Will the Landfills of the Future Be Fields of Fungi?

In 2012, a group of molecular biochemistry students from Yale University ventured into the Amazon Rainforest to collect plant samples, which they cultured in a lab to learn more about the microorganisms within. With one, they hit the jackpot: the fungus Pestalotiopsis microspora was able to grow on a pure diet of polyurethane, a common form of plastic. What's more, it was happy to chow down in an oxygen-free environment like those at the bottom of landfills. But that's not the end of fungus's potential for sustainability. A European team of microbiologists and designers are using a similar fungus in their prototype Fungi Mutarium, a dome-like incubator that's designed to break down plastic and replace it with a fungus fluff that's safe to eat.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Scientists have started using fungus to break down plastic in much less time than it takes to break down on its own. 00:19

  2. Whale poop may help regulate the earth's climate by encouraging the growth of krill and plankton, which absorb a large amount of carbon. 01:17

  3. Sepios is an underwater robot inspired by cuttlefish that can navigate thick tangles of grass without getting stuck. 03:20

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