CSU Scientists Seek to Mass Produce Nature's Strongest Material
Researchers at Colorado State University say plants may hold the key to the future of lasting infrastructure.
Synthetic Biologists at CSU led by Mauricio Antunas are hoping to harness what nature already produces and make it better.
The researchers will focus on the substance sporopollinen which naturally coats and protects individual grains of plant pollen.
"And because this material has such an important function of protecting the genetic material of the plant, it's made to be very resistant to the environment and to harsh conditions. That's why we think if we can tweak the production process and make the plant produce this biomaterial in large quantities then perhaps we can use it to coat surfaces of things that are of interest to us. For example bridges, infrastructure in general to protect it from the environment including things like radiation and rotting and things like that."
The team was awarded a 1.7 million dollar grant by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) part of the U.S. Department of Defense. DARPA is known for funding extremely difficult, high-risk, high-reward science. So far no one has succeeded in making sporopollenin in quantities large enough to become commercially viable . The CSU researchers may be eligible for another $2.1 million for two additional years, if their methods prove successful.