Radiation-Eating Fungi Could Protect Astronauts in Space

July 28, 2020

Travelling across the cosmos might become a bit easier in the future, as a type of fungi growing at a former nuclear power plant in the Ukraine has the potential to protect humans from space radiation.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Stanford University have been running experiments on fungi that grow inside the reactors at Chernobyl, which infamously exploded and released large amounts of radiation into the atmosphere in 1986.

Per experts’ reports, the “Cryptococcus neoforman” fungi – which was discovered five years after the disaster – feeds off radiation. Its high melanin levels have been found to convert carbon dioxide and chlorophyll into oxygen and glucose via photosynthesis.

Nils Averesch, one of the researchers at Stanford, explained: “It self-replicates and self-heals, so even if there’s a solar flare that damages the radiation shield significantly, it will be able to grow back in a few days.”

It’s believed that a 21cm-layer of this fungi could be enough to act as a shield for future astronauts, allowing them to safely navigate the radioactive atmospheres of planets such as Mars and the Moon.