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[Geek.com]Yale students discover a fungus that loves to eat plastic - Page 5

post #41 of 50
so if it eats plastic, it digests it and produces what? i assume this organism doesn't disintegrate matter into thin air
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post #42 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by pursuinginsanity View Post

I've always wondered just how a landfill "fills up." Is altitude a concern, or something? rolleyes.gif Pretty sure you can just keep, you know, adding to the top.
PS: Yes. I'm advocating Mt. Everest size landfills. We'll only need 1.

You do realize that can have a huge potential impact on the climate, weather, and wild life, right?
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post #43 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by willis888 View Post

It seems like this might be a good time to get into the glass-making business.
Imagine these spores getting loose in a grocery store.bigeyedsmiley.png
I wonder how long it will take to develop a clear, spray-on coating that will prevent fungus from eating through packaging while it sits on a store's shelf? Hopefully such a coating would be easy to remove at a recycling plant (acid bath, heat treatment, etc...).
Quote:
Originally Posted by gbatemper View Post

Imagine if you accidently dropped and let some of the fungus free in your house. Wouldn't your house not break down, or your electronics etc start to be eaten?

It doesn't happen instantaneously -.- It's fungus, not acid.

Unless it's some crazy, weaponized strain specifically devised to do so, it won't eat through tons of plastic in an instant. A little bit of disinfectant should be able to clean up a spill, and outbreaks of the fungus would be easy to detect and contain quickly, I would think.
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post #44 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Escatore View Post

It doesn't happen instantaneously -.- It's fungus, not acid.
Unless it's some crazy, weaponized strain specifically devised to do so, it won't eat through tons of plastic in an instant. A little bit of disinfectant should be able to clean up a spill, and outbreaks of the fungus would be easy to detect and contain quickly, I would think.
That would be quiet interested.
Biological Bombs of a variant of this fungus, which is biologically engineered to eat plastic at a much faster rate, spread much quicker, and resist disinfectants.
post #45 of 50
I hope they don't eat ALL types of plastic. Imagine a world where the plastic fungus has gotten widespread. The only PCs we'd have left would be the built PCs and Apple computers. And there would be NO phones but iPhones lol
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post #46 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by EduFurtado View Post

If it's toxic, it could be even worse than having the plastic around slowly degrading.
I could call it great news if this fungus can excrete something useful, or just, as you said something that degrades faster.
Problem is if they actually let go something worse, toxic or hazardous.

Humanity can't survive if we destroy the planet, we can survive if we kill off most of us =P
post #47 of 50
Ok, so if anybody here actually has any training in chemistry or biology, this may be interesting to you. I took the liberty of actually skimming the article. The research group claims that the polyurethane is degraded completely into the urethane monomers. Their evidence is that in the control IR spectrum there is a massive band at 1735 inverse cm, which corresponds to the ester linkage between each monomer. After 6 days of treatment, they took another IR and found that the band disappears almost completely. That's pretty convincing to me, though I feel that they should have tried to repolymerize the lysate back into polyurethane. They might have done so; I only skimmed the article so I don't claim to be familiar with everything they did.

For anyone not familiar with chemistry, here is a picture of the reaction that makes polyurethane:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Polyurethane.png

Notice that one of the reactants has a N=C=O at the end, and the other has an OH. Now notice that in the polyurethane product, the H from the OH is missing, and instead the two pieces are connected at N-C=O,O. That C=O,O-C structure (carbon double bonded to one oxygen, and single bonded to another oxygen, which itself is bonded to another carbon) is called an ester, and it absorbs infrared light at a very specific frequency. When they take the IR spectrum of polyurethane, they see the ester absorption. When they let the fungus eat it, the ester absorption disappears, suggesting that the reaction is reversed.

What this means, assuming I'm understanding correctly, is that the fungus leaves you with the precursors of the reaction. These could probably be salvaged and recycled to make new polyurethane products, which is pretty exciting. On the other hand, I don't see them mass producing the fungus and releasing it into the wild because the precursors themselves can be dangerous, even though polyurethane itself isn't. For example, the N=C=O precursor is called an isocyanate, and one such chemical killed thousands of Indians in the Bhopal Disaster. They were using it as a pesticide, and I don't think methylisocyanate is used for polyurethane. Furthermore, other isocyanates seem to have pretty low toxicity. Nonetheless, I think that the more likely use for this fungus, if it proves to be efficient, is in a controlled recycling environment. I can easily see a two-reactor system, where one reactor grows the fungus while another mixes the mature fungus with the plastic. After degradation, the components would be separated (so they don't repolymerize) and then autoclaved (to kill the fungus). Profit for whichever company comes up with such a system.

Whatever they decide to do with this fungus, they better keep it away from my condoms redface.gif
Edited by Danja - 2/5/12 at 7:51pm
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post #48 of 50
In before mutated fungus eat all your gadgets

Seriously, hope they don't accidentally "released" it rolleyes.gif
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post #49 of 50
Wait, so all that green fungus that I've seen on our old plastics/tires here in Florida was some undiscovered fungus? Well damn.(Assuming what we have down here is similar, and is a fungus)
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post #50 of 50
I'm kinda shocked that people thought it was actually an island forming in the ocean. I mean, c'mon, how know-nothing do you have to be....
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