Science Today – Packing for Space | California Academy of Sciences


♪ (percussion music) ♪(narrator) If you’re heading into space,
you can’t take much baggage,
so undergraduate students
from Standford and Brown universities
are developing plastic-making bacteria
to create building materials in space.
(Daniel) There’s a lot of constraints
when you’re going up into space
because mass and volume can lead
to really expensive travel. So we’re trying to make bacteria
that can make plastics and other materialsthat we can self-foldinto whatever the astronauts might need.Our team is working on making
the plastic polystyrene,
which is really widely used,
and to do this,
we have to figure out what genes
are necessary, and bacteria,
we have to give bacteria the blueprints
they need to make this plastic.
And then they can make
the proteins that we need
which allow us to make the plastic.And then we’ll bring
this plastic up into space,
and then we’ll use the sun to heat it up.And then it can fold
into all different shapes.
(Kirsten) And we’re doing this
through what we coined asbio-origami. So, using biological substrates
produced by bacteriaself-fold into useful structures.It’s self-folding and– which means
that it can be flat-packed just likeIKEA. (Erica) However, unlikeIKEA,
the assembly would be very simple.And it would save the astronauts timeso they wouldn’t necessarily
have to be assembling the things
that they use in space.And they said that it just takes
a huge amount of time.
(narrator) While the students
are thinking about astronauts
as they create theirbio-origami,it’s not for practical use just yet.It’s their entry
into the 2015
iGemcompetition. (Daniel)iGemis a synthetic
biology competition.It’s international,and it aims to standardize
biological parts into genes in a catalog.
So as you can go toFrye’s Electronics
and get a capacitor and resistor and put them into the circuit,a goal of bioengineering is
to make biology as easy to engineer
so you can make these
standardized biological parts
and put them together
to make a more complex gene.
(narrator) The team earned a gold medal
at this year’s competition.
But it’s not all about awards.iGemis giving the students
hands-on experience with real research.
(man #1) iGemis really a competitionwhere young undergraduates
get to undertake a project of their own
and really kind of
mess around with things.
Here, you’re responsible
for your own project,
and it’s a lot more funbecause you actually get to have
a better taste of what real science is.
♪ (upbeat outro music) ♪

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