Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bug Spacesuit (Picture of the Day: 4/24/13)

Insect larva. Source

In an astounding display of "I wonder what happens when I do this..." scientists have created a nano-spacesuit for insects. These scientists weren't trying to send bugs into space or anything, they were actually trying to find a way to make insect larvae survive long enough to examine them using an electron microscope, a device that requires a vacuum to function. They started by taking Drosophila larvae (fruit fly larvae) and bombarding the sheath of extracellular substances that they create with a stream of electrons. When they did this, that sheath fused together to form an incredibly thin layer of polymers that kept gases and liquids in, even against the harsh environment of a vacuum. These scientists went farther and created a similar nano-suit around other larvae that don't excrete the same extracellular substances using Tween 20, a fairly common substance. Insects that have one of these nano-suits can survive for upwards of an hour in vacuum with no ill effects. I think this is pretty amazing.
For more information, check out this article.

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