Chernobyl, the site of the biggest nuclear accident in the world, has taken a major toll on the surrounding environment and peoples, contaminating both with radiation that resulted in further destruction. Despite this otherwise desolate landscape, scientists have discovered a black fungus growing within the remains of the facility, thought to be using radiation as a form of energy.
Just as the pigment chlorophyll converts sunlight into energy that allows green plants to grow, the pigment melanin is thought to employ the same process, using a different portion of the electromagnetic spectrum: radiation.
Though the fungus can use the radiation as a source of energy, it doesn’t remove it from the soil or surrounding area, doing little in way of improving the long-standing effects of Chernobyl and areas like it that have been similarly exposed. It does present a different potential though: for astronauts. Radiation is prevalent in outer space, as are edible mushrooms that contain melanin (the pigment necessary to convert radiation into energy), meaning that astronauts could feasibly grow and harvest these fungus, creating an inexhaustible food source that could allow for longer journeys, as well as the potential for colonizing other planets. More on that here.
And if you don’t believe that fungus could actually save the world….