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Future microbes could probe for aircraft stress points


A team of MIT researchers has identified microbes that -- with a little genetic engineering -- could highlight stress points in aircraft wings. The microbes produce certain proteins that bond to metal alloys that form at the stress points: the modified microbes will then emit light when the metal is stressed, thereby alerting the pilot and/or freaking out the passengers. Before we start seeing Jumbos with wings covered in agar jelly, the team still has to find a way of working around the issue of dirt and grime -- and presumably how to stop the gunk from slipping off the wing. Other recent innovations that MIT researchers have brought to the field of "industrial microbiology" include creating a battery out of cobalt oxide secreting microbes and a microbe that can split water with sunlight, with future research proposals to look into creating a microbe that can produce particles that make up solar cells. The future: it's full of stars agar!

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