Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Growing Something out of Nothing

27.10.2011
TAU researchers nurture innovative biofuel crops to reduce our carbon footprint

Fears of global warming and its impact on our environment have left scientists scrambling to decrease levels of atmospheric carbon we humans produce. Now, Tel Aviv University researchers are doing their part to reduce humanity's carbon footprint by successfully growing forests in the most unlikely place — deep in Israel's Aravah Desert.

With environmental "extras" such as a local plant species, recycled sewage water unsuitable for agriculture, and arid lands unusable for crops, a group of researchers including Profs. Amram Eshel and Aviah Zilberstein of TAU's Department of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants at the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences and the university's new Renewable Energy Center have discovered a winning combination.

In many parts of the world, including areas of India, central Asia and the Sahara desert, their new crop of plants would be not only viable in difficult terrain, but valuable in terms of carbon reduction. These standing crops, grown on land once considered barren, can soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen. Their research is soon to be published in the European Journal of Plant Science and Biotechnology.

Making the desert bloom

Though maintaining our current forests is a necessary initiative, Prof. Eshel says, it is not enough to off-set human carbon output. In their quest to create forests that diminish carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, many countries have been converting fertile agricultural lands into forests. But TAU researchers believed that encouraging growth on a piece of land that was traditionally barren, such as desert land, was a step in a better direction.

"When you take the overall carbon balance of converting agricultural land and freshwater into energy products, you may not gain that much," says Prof. Eshel. "You're investing a lot of energy in the process itself, thus releasing a lot of carbon into the atmosphere."

To conserve fresh water, the researchers used water considered of low quality, such as recycled sewage water and salt water that was the by-product of inland desalination plants. The final piece of the puzzle was to find a plant hearty enough to successfully grow in the desert. The researchers turned to Tamarix, a botanical genus that includes salt cedar trees and is indigenous to the old-world deserts. Some 150 different varieties of the botanical genus were used, grown in both a common garden setting and in densities that mimicked commercial crops.

With the first harvest of trees just last summer, researchers have much to process, including analyzing the amount of carbon dioxide the crops have successfully captured from the atmosphere. The answers will determine how much carbon such a crop can offset.

A source for biofuel?

The cut trees themselves might also be used as a source of renewable energy. These "biomass" or "biofuel" crops, derived from natural crops, could help to reduce dependence on traditional fossil fuels such as coal. But the question of where to grow crops dedicated to fuel production had to be addressed, since converting agricultural land could have the side effect of creating food shortages.

Arid and previously unused desert lands provide an ideal solution, Prof. Eshel says. To make his approach economically feasible, much more land would be needed than Israel can provide. But similar tracts of land, such as the Sahara Desert, are big enough to grow these types of crops on a larger scale. He adds that what has been done in the Israeli desert can be replicated elsewhere to great effect.

This research is a collaboration between TAU's Porter School of Environmental Science, the University of Tuscia in Viterbo, Italy, and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Funds for the study were provided by the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea.

George Hunka | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.aftau.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht The disappearance of common species
01.02.2018 | Technical University of Munich (TUM)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

Im Focus: Autonomous 3D scanner supports individual manufacturing processes

Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).

Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fingerprints of quantum entanglement

16.02.2018 | Information Technology

'Living bandages': NUST MISIS scientists develop biocompatible anti-burn nanofibers

16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>