Using plants to help clean up heavily polluted soils has been successfully tested for many years and shown to be a cheap and environmentally friendly way to clear heavy metals such as arsenic, copper, zinc and chromium from contaminated land.
The main problem with the method has been the amount of time it takes to grow successive crops of plants to clean up an area. Now scientists may have come up with a solution by combining heavy metal tolerant bacteria with plants used to make biofuels such as oil seed rape.
"We discovered that inoculating the plants with metal resistant bacteria provided them with sufficient protection that their seeds germinated better and their growth was enhanced. The plant leaves accumulate the metals, the bacteria deal with the contamination, and the plants seem to benefit from some of their activity," says Olivia Odhiambo from the Institute of Technology, Carlow, Ireland.
Oilseed rape is a member of the Brassica family, which also includes cabbages and Brussels sprouts. It is well suited to Irish growing conditions and is already widely grown by farmers for biodiesel production.
"As some of the bacterial strains we tested are showing enhanced growth properties in the crop, this also means greater plant production and more biodiesel," says Olivia Odhiambo. "This is good news for owners of land that cannot currently be used for food plants due to heavy metal contamination. However, this technology could also have much wider implications in improving biofuel crop production nationally and internationally by simply helping farmers grow more fuel per hectare."
The scientists have looked at two types of metal tolerant bacteria which colonise the leaves of the oil seed rape plants and one metal tolerant type that lives in the roots of other brassicas and found that all three were successful in promoting the plant growth, although they did show different tolerances to different heavy metals. The Carlow team now hopes to extend their study to include other commercial biofuel plants and different strains of metal resistant bacteria.
Lucy Goodchild | alfa
Kakao in Monokultur verträgt Trockenheit besser als Kakao in Mischsystemen
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Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.
Graphene is up to the job
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
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