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Gizmorama - February 12, 2018

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Bacteria living is extreme cold condition may be the key to "green" detergents for laundry day.

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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* SpaceX 'Starman' travels toward asteroid belt in Tesla Roadster *

SpaceX launched a cherry-red Tesla roadster and a mannequin driver into space along with its Falcon Heavy rocket on Tuesday.

A four-hour livestream chronicled the adventures of the mannequin, known as "Starman," providing stunning images as it started on an elliptic orbit toward Mars -- though it has exceeded the Mars orbit and is expected to head toward the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla, said the car's stereo was playing David Bowie's "Space Oddity," as images from the livestream showed a message reading "DON'T PANIC" on the dashboard.

Earth loomed large in the background as the Roadster gently glided through space and its passenger, fitted with SpaceX's new space suit, casually rested its left arm on the driver's side door and right arm on the steering wheel.

Occasionally the earth drifted out of view and the Tesla's bright paint job stood in contrast to the dark expanse of space.

Musk said the car and driver could be in a "hyperbolic orbit" for a billion years.

The Roadster is being carried by the second stage of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket, which the company hopes to implement in its plan to eventually transport both astronauts and citizens to the moon and Mars.

*-- Bacteria from cold environs could help clean clothes --*

Bacteria have evolved to thrive in some of the most extreme conditions on the planet. New research suggests bacteria living in the extreme cold of the planet's polar regions could be used as "green" detergents.

In the new study, scientists at the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences in Potsdam considered the commercial potential of polar bacteria.

The bacteria found in Earth's polar regions is able to survive more than just frigid temperatures. They thrive despite increased ultraviolet radiation and a dearth of liquid water and nutrients. They do so thanks to molecules called biosurfactants.

Scientists believe biosurfactants could help clean clothes or boost the performance of fuel.

"They really have a tremendous potential," microbiologist and biotechnologist Amedea Perfumo said in a news release.

Researchers have previously synthesized biosurfactants from waste like cooking oil byproducts, but the biosurfactants produced by extremophilic bacteria have the added benefit of functioning at subzero temperatures.

Scientists suggest the addition of biosurfactants could make biodiesel, which burns cleaner than gasoline, a viable fuel option by enabling it to flow more smoothly at colder temperatures. The molecules could also allow detergents to be activated at colder washing temperatures, conserving energy.

Additionally, biosurfactants could be used to clean up pollution in cold ocean water.

"The cold regions of our planet are actually becoming more reachable for exploration and for scientific research," Perfumo said. "Scientists who don't have the option to go personally to the polar regions and take samples can simply get organisms from culture collections. It's in reach for everybody."

The cold-active enzymes created by extremophilic bacteria are already being synthesized for industrial purposes, and Perfumo thinks biosurfactants will be next. But she says more research is necessary to determine which types of extremophilic bacteria yield the most useful biosurfactants.

"We still only know a little," she said. "I think that with a little work and a little patience and especially with joint forces, we can take a bold step in the near future. It will really be a grand challenge for science and technology."

Perfumo detailed the potential of cold-active biosurfactants in the journal Trends in Biotechnology.


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