Fungus from Chernobyl may Act as Shielding for Astronauts
As highlighted in Rick Tanner ’ s article on page 9 , radiation is a major hazard for humans during space missions and scientists are always on the lookout for advanced shielding . A fungus , Cladosporium sphaerospermum ( and definitely not the ' fungus art ' pictured below ), found at the destroyed nuclear reactor at the former Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant , could hold the answer .
In a process similar to photosynthesis , the fungus appears to perform radiosynthesis , using pigments known as melanin to convert gamma radiation into chemical energy . In the search for pioneering radiation shielding , it seems biotechnology holds exceptional advantages , such as suitability for in-situ resource utilisation ( ISRU ), self-regeneration , and adaptability . Researchers from the University of North Carolina and Stanford University studied C . sphaerospermum aboard the International Space Station over 30 days , looking at its growth and ability to weaken ionising radiation . They published a preprint of the study on bioRxiv , concluding that “ Compatible with ISRU , bio-based melanincontaining composites are promising as a means for radiation shielding while reducing overall up-mass , as is compulsory for future Mars-missions .” Imagine what else lies undiscovered on Earth that could help space exploration !
in-situ resource utilisation ( ISRU ) is the generation of products with local materials - e . g . the ability to grow something on Mars with items found on the planet .
The social enterprise company that makes Atomik is run by scientists who work in the 4,000 square kilometre Chernobyl exclusion zone . Part of the reason for producing the apple-based spirit is to demonstrate how land around the exclusion zone could be put back to productive use . Prof Jim Smith , one of the scientists behind the initiative , explains that it is " no more radioactive than any other vodka ". The apples are grown in the Narodichi district , an area immediately outside the exclusion zone , where agriculture and development is still highly restricted . The company plans to use some of its profits to help communities in Ukraine - including in Narodichi - that are still affected by the economic impact of the nuclear disaster . To purchase ( UK only at present ) go to www . atomikvodka . com .
Does anyone have a copy of the highly collectible Radiation Cookery Book ? It was first published in 1927 to coincide with the first temperature-controlled gas ovens which had just been invented . Now you could actually control the heat of your oven and cook different foods at different temperatures and times . We ’ d love to have a first edition in the SRP archives so please do get in touch if you find it on your cookery shelves – possibly next to the 1935 New Radiation Recipe Book ?
If you have these or any other interesting radiation linked cookery books please do send us a photo of you with it for our cookery photo gallery .
Radiation Protection Today Winter 2021 37