The variety found in Chernobyl is called Cryptococcus neoformans, and is capable of decomposing radioactive material such as hot graphite from the remains of the nuclear power plant reactor, according to information published in Nature in 2007. Not only does it not fear radiation, but it attracts it.
The organism was found in 1991, but its properties have just been studied in a detailed way.
His secret is in the melanin It has the same pigment that is present in human skin, especially in black people. If the substance that guarantees the fungus characteristic is extracted, it could be used to block the penetration of radiation and turn it into a renewable energy source, as an analogue of solar panels. It would also relieve cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy and allow nuclear power plant engineers and aircraft pilots to operate without fear of absorbing a deadly dose of radiation.
The unusual properties of the fungus have been studied at the International Space Station by a team of scientists led by Kasthuri Venkateswaran. On board, the radiation is high compared to the Earth’s surface, and researchers use it to find out how it behaves in space. They hope that the fungus can serve to protect astronauts from the deadly rays of the Sun, as they are the main danger in space.
“The fungi that grow there (in the Chernobyl reactor) are radiotrophic fungi, rich in melanin. Melanin absorbs radiation and converts it into other forms of energy (including electrical energy). Our research focuses on the use of melanin together with water to convert electromagnetic radiation into electrical energy. This technology can find its place in biotechnology, since it is not toxic and is biocompatible, “says the research team.
The nuclear reactor of Chernobyl of the Soviet Union broke down on April 26, 1986 and caused the mass evacuation and abandonment of an extensive area. About 31 people lost their lives, mostly firefighters and military. To date, there is still an exclusion zone of 2,600 square km with high doses of radiation.