from the fungus-among-us dept.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:
Clogs in water recovery systems on the international space station have been so backed up that hoses have had to be sent back to Earth for cleaning and refurbishing. This is thanks to the build up of biofilms: a consortium of microorganisms that stick to each other, and often also to surfaces — the insides of water recover tubing, for instance. These microbial or fungal growths can clog filters in water processing systems and make astronauts sick.
[...] In a cross collaboration between researchers at the University of Colorado, MIT and the NASA Ames Research Center, researchers studied samples from the space station using a specific and well-understood gram-negative kind of bacteria. The scientists also joined forces with experts at LiquiGlide, a company run by MIT researcher Kripa Varanasi that specializes in “eliminating the friction between solids and liquids.” The multidisciplinary study found covering surfaces with a thin layer of nucleic acids prevented bacterial growth on the ISS-exposed samples.
The scientists concluded that these acids carried a slight negative electric charge that stopped microbes from sticking to surfaces. It's worth noting though, that the bacteria were up against a unique physical barrier as well as a chemical one: testing surfaces were etched into "nanograss." These silicon spikes, which resembled a tiny forest, were then slicked with a silicon oil, creating a slippery surface which biofilms struggled to adhere to.