Researchers from University of California developed a spacesuit of metal-organic framework (MOF) that extends the lifetime of microbes
A team of researchers from University of California, Berkeley, developed protective suits that extend the bacteria's lifespan. The novel system pairs live bacteria with light-absorbing semiconductors to capture carbon dioxide and convert it into useful chemicals. The system replicates the process of photosynthesis in plants. The hybrid system captures CO2 and light to produce a variety of carbon compounds. The team used anaerobic bacteria that have the ability to survive in environments without oxygen. The suit developed by the team is a patchwork of mesh-like pieces called a metal-organic framework (MOF) and is impermeable to oxygen and reactive oxygen molecules that shorten the lifespan of these anaerobic bacteria.
The researchers developed the hybrid bacterial system over the past five years and the system was based on light-absorbing semiconductors such as nanowires. These solid wires of silicon developed by the team are a few hundred nanometers across. Light can be captured by arrays of nanowires to generate electricity. The hybrid system consists of semiconductors that efficiently capture light to feed electrons to anaerobic bacteria. The team is focused on enhancing carbon capture by the bacteria to produce useful carbon compounds. The MOF suit offers five times longer life to the bacteria at normal oxygen concentrations compared to the lifetime without the suits.
The normal lifespan of anaerobic bacteria ranges from weeks to months. The bacteria used in the research was Morella thermoacetica, which produce acetic acid. The bacteria were decorated with cadmium sulfide and were masked with a flexible, one nanometer thick layer of MOF. The hybrid system can be used to capture carbon dioxide emitted by power plants and turn it into useful products. Moreover, the system also offers a biological way to produce useful chemicals in artificial environments. The research was funded by NASA through UC Berkeley's Center for the Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space and was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on October 01, 2018.
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