Anyone who has prepared Kombucha tea know that bacterial cellulose that makes up the sponge culture is SCOBY some pretty strong things.
The material is so strong and flexible fashion designers lean green sometimes use it to make kombucha-based clothing ! Essentially, the process is a microbial version of silkworm silk weaving.
Some of these experts speculate that this naturally occurring material could be one of the solutions to the crisis of cheap clothing. This global problem is contributing to localized water shortages, pollution and child labor problems.
Now, scientists are chiming to say that the humble cellulose found in Kombucha could help colonize Mars!
A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that bacterial species found in Kombucha tea can be manipulated into microscopic factories are capable of producing bacterial cellulose products on demand.
research team of the Center for Synthetic Biology and Innovation at Imperial College London called his new bacterial line Komagataeibacter Rhaeticus iGEM (K.rhaeticus) . The project leader, Michael Florea, conducted the study as part of their undergraduate studies. What began as a student project entered the 2014 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition (which came second) has now become an important research article
Florea had this to say about the achievements of his team :.
What makes this so promising method is that we have shown that the production of bacterial cellulose can be controlled genetically, which means that we grow materials with different shapes, designs and sizes. We can also weave in other proteins and biomolecules, which had never before been possible.
3-D printing using bacterial cellulose
Cellulose is already collected in huge amounts of trees and plants to make disposable materials such as paper and cardboard . Collecting cellulose produced by bacteria from crops such as Kombucha is more practical in an environment of space, however. This is because they grow quickly without the need for much space, soil or sun.
This material surprisingly already grown and harvested for use in a wide range of products such as headphones, cosmetics and synthetic leather. Its use for space travel and exploration is a new concept in its entirety, though!
What has changed is that DNA tools are now available to control and shape the bacteria to the required specifications. Astronauts could possibly use these tools to grow bacterial cellulose to build essential components. This flexibility need to transport the pre-made materials with them would be eliminated.
Another important use might be for water filtration. bacterial cellulose can be woven together with drawings of proteins and other biomolecules specific as it grows. The special fabric serve to unite them out of contaminants and liquid water. Different filters could be made for specific pollutants with high selectivity for each depending on environmental conditions.
In addition, bacterial cellulose can be manipulated to produce fluorescent proteins when chemicals, metals or biological toxins are detected. A practical commercial application could be like a living tissue that changes color as a warning of the dangerous environment.
Kombucha in space
The next step is for researchers to join with NASA to find ways to better develop bacterial cellulose in large quantities in an environment non-Earth. Assess how well these crops grow and thrive in conditions of zero gravity will also be important ..
seems to teach their children how to prepare kombucha now qualify for training as astronauts early in the morning! Growing bacterial cellulose in the old way of making this delicious drink could even make a great science project.
refers to the wisdom of the past to pave the way for the future!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist