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A new supermaterial called nanocellulose

Researchers at the University of Texas are working on a way to produce mass quantities of nanocellulose -- a non-toxic construction and engineering material that's strong, saves trees, and could help reduce greenhouse gases. 

Generating nanocellulose involves altering the genes of bacteria that produce vinegar or kombucha tea. Sunlight goes in and what comes out is a goop-like material that can be made into houses, cargo ships, you name it -- if they can perfect the process.

"People don't realize the strength of cellulose," says researcher R. Malcolm Brown, Junior, professor of plant cell biology at UT Austin.

Brown says nanocellulose could be applied to a variety of area, from medicine to electronics.

"I've even proposed that we make our rocket casings [out of it] when we send our astronauts to Mars," says Brown. "Cellulose can be digested, and if you break it down, the component is called sugar -- the astronauts would go to Mars, and they could live off of their rocket casings."

Though Brown adds edible rockets would make it difficult to travel back to Earth.

To hear more about nanocellulose, click on the audio player above.

 

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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