Home pagePress monitoringTesting Chernobyl fungi as a radiation shield for astronauts

Testing Chernobyl fungi as a radiation shield for astronauts

Date: 5.8.2020 

A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Stanford University has tested the viability of using a type of fungus found growing in some of the destroyed nuclear reactors at the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant site to shield astronauts from radiation.

Kredit: CC0 Creative Commons.Without the Earth's protective atmosphere and magnetic field, humans would not live very long in space, on the moon or on Mars. So scientists have been looking for viable ways to protect astronauts. In this new effort, the researchers have built on research that showed some kinds of fungus are able to flourish in a very highly radioactive place here on Earth – inside the destroyed reactors at the Chernobyl site in Ukraine.

Testing of several types of the fungus has showed that they not only survive in the former reactors, but actually flourish. They have the ability to absorb radiation and to convert it into energy for their own use. To look into the possibility of using such types of fungus as a shield for humans, the researchers arranged with NASA to send a sample of one of the types of fungus found at Chernobyl – Cladosporium sphaerospermum – to the International Space Station.

On its own, the fungus is known to grow, which means a rocket carrying humans could carry just a small amount with them. Once on Mars, the fungus could be cultivated on a shield structure and allowed to thicken, offering perhaps one layer of protection very nearly free of charge.





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