2012-03-30

Co.Exist

A Self-Cleaning Plastic Impregnated With Living (Delicious) Mold

The scientists behind it say that it might be an entirely new class of living things. If it’s not, it’s still a material that will eat anything that you spill on it.

Swiss scientists have designed a special plastic that houses the kind of fungus you eat in blue cheese, so you have less to clean up.

Before you push your plate away, you should know the material is actually designed to make your kitchen, and products, cleaner. Everything has got to eat, and Penicilium roqueforti—the fungus behind the lifesaving antibiotic penicillin, as well as the culture for Roquefort cheese—is no different.

So scientists have designed a plastic with special layers to house the friendly fungal culture. The result is a self-cleaning plastic that metabolizes any organic matter that might spill on it. A nano-porous top layer allows the "microorganism to dwell exclusively in between a confined, well-enclosed area of the material," while keeping the plastic from absorbing spills and growing less person-friendly bacteria. In other words, it’s a living plastic that cleans itself.

This is still in the lab (for better or worse), but the scientists say the unique material is flexible enough to be transferred to the surfaces of everyday consumer goods and self-sterilizing materials such as packaging, indoor surfaces, and in biotechnology. Soon, they hope, we’ll have "a novel class of living materials."

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