Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin say they have engineered a “wonder material” that can sustain the exhaustible means by which we live. Called nanocellulose, the “wonder material” can be used to make buildings, cars, planes and replenishable biofuel
“If we can complete the final steps, we will have accomplished one of the most important potential agricultural transformations ever,” said R. Malcolm Brown, Jr., Ph.D., in a news release issued by the American Chemical Society.
Cellulose, one of the most abundant organic polymers on earth, consists of wood fibers that make up tree trunks and cotton fibers, according to the American Chemical Society. Materials made with nanocellulose are stronger than steel and stiffer than Kevlar. To harness its properties, scientists have been researching ways to produce it abundantly and cheaply.
While few organisms can produce cellulose in its micro form that preserve its intrinsic advantages, Brown said he and his and team have engineered algae with the bacteria that produces vinegar to do just that.
“This bacterium is the world’s most efficient cellulose producer, far more efficient than trees or cotton,” said Brown. “When we are finished with this product we will have cellulose synthesis at a level that will be huge on a global scale.”
Assuming he can muster enough funding to complete his research, Brown envisions enormous algae farms in deserts that will not only produce nanocellulose but also absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide in the air.
So the next time you take a dip in the ocean or a lake, do not curse the green scum floating nearby. It may be responsible for getting you to work on time one day.
- Nature & Environment
- American Chemical Society