If Inhabitat.com’s on the money with this one, the answer could soon be “just about anything,” thanks to Swiss scientists who’ve used blue cheese fungus to make a self-cleaning plastic that eats food scraps:
Researchers at ETH Zurich, led by Lukas C. Gerber, took thin, slightly porous sheets of plastic and injected them with penicilium roqueforti, which is the fungus found in blue cheese. The idea was to try to mimic the way cheese rinds protect the cheese inside from unwanted bacteria. To test the self-cleaning plastic, the researchers dropped a little bit of a sugar solution on it, and let it go to work.
“Gas exchange for breathing and transport of nutrient through a nano-porous top layer allowed selective intake of food whilst limiting the microorganism to dwell exclusively in between a confined, well-enclosed area of the material,” the authors explain in their recently-published paper.
Two weeks later, the sugar solution had been completely consumed by the fungus, leaving the plastic sparkling clean. Then, after it had eaten all of the sugar, with nothing to feed on, the fungus went dormant again.
Apparently, it’s not just sponges, cutting boards and containers that could get a bacterial boost – but also things like stain-eating shirts.