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Desert Bacteria Assists Development of Carbon Capturing Paint

Researchers at the University of Surrey have developed a "living paint" called Green Living Paint, which uses a bacterium that captures carbon dioxide and produces oxygen through photosynthesis. The bacterium, Chroococcidiopsis cubana, is an extremophile that requires little water for survival. The biocoating made from this bacterium can reduce water consumption and has potential applications as a bioreactor or biosensor.

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Now, let's delve into the fascinating world of biocoatings. These innovative water-based paints are not your ordinary paints. They go beyond aesthetics and serve a multitude of purposes. Biocoatings are unique in that they encapsulate live bacteria within their layers. This opens up a world of possibilities for their application.

One remarkable biocoating, developed by researchers at Surrey, is called 'Green Living Paint.' It incorporates a specific bacterium called Chroococcidiopsis cubana, which is known for its ability to undergo photosynthesis and produce oxygen while simultaneously capturing carbon dioxide. What makes this bacterium even more intriguing is its resilience in harsh conditions. It is classified as an extremophile, meaning it can survive in extreme environments such as deserts with minimal water requirements.

The motivation behind creating such biocoatings is twofold. Firstly, with the increasing levels of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, in our atmosphere, there is a pressing need for innovative and sustainable materials. Secondly, the rising global temperatures and concerns about water shortages call for environmentally friendly solutions that reduce water consumption. Biocoatings, or 'living paints,' have the potential to address these challenges by minimizing water usage in bioreactor-based processes.

To assess the suitability of Chroococcidiopsis cubana as a biocoating, the researchers immobilized the bacteria in a robust biocoating made of polymer particles suspended in water. This biocoating was then fully dried before being rehydrated. The results were remarkable. The bacteria within the biocoating produced up to 0.4 grams of oxygen per gram of biomass per day, effectively capturing CO2. What's even more impressive is that the oxygen production remained consistent over a month-long period, showing no signs of decreasing activity.

In comparison, the researchers conducted similar experiments with another bacterium called Synechocystis sp., which is typically found in freshwater. However, unlike its desert-dwelling counterpart, this bacterium was unable to produce oxygen within the biocoating. This highlights the unique capabilities of Chroococcidiopsis cubana and its potential for various applications.

Simone Krings, the lead author of the study and a former Postgraduate Researcher in the Department of Microbial Sciences at the University of Surrey, expressed the significance of this research. By harnessing the power of these living paints, we can pave the way for a greener and more sustainable future. The ability to capture carbon dioxide and produce oxygen simultaneously opens up opportunities for carbon sequestration and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the reduced water consumption in bioreactor-based processes can contribute to mitigating water shortages.

In conclusion, the development of biocoatings, such as the 'Green Living Paint,' represents a significant advancement in the field of materials science. These coatings, with their encapsulated live bacteria, offer a range of possibilities, from carbon capture to acting as biosensors. The research conducted at Surrey demonstrates the potential of Chroococcidiopsis cubana as a biocoating, showcasing its ability to produce oxygen and capture CO2. As we continue to explore the applications of biocoatings, we move closer to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.

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