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A team of researchers participating in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) — an event focused on synthetic biology — submitted a novel drone that can self-assemble anywhere to do its job and then melt into a harmless puddle of sugar, if it gets lost.
The team, captained by Raman Nelakanti, a bioengineering student from Stanford University, and consisting of undergrads from Stanford, Brown University and Spelman College, were given the same kit of biological parts that every team was given. Over the summer of 2014, they used those parts as well as parts of their own design to develop a biodegradable drone.
They built the hull of the drone from cellulose and mycelium, the vegetative part of a mushroom and coated it with the protein that wasps use to make their nests waterproof.
“Mushroom materials are inherently lightweight, biodegradable and the strength to weight ratio of the material was preferable for this application,” Ecovative’s Melissa Jacobsen told FastCoExist. Ecovative is the materials science company that provided the iGem team with the mushroom-based components.