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 Enabling a plastic-free microplastic hunt: "Rocket" improves detection of very small particles
22.10.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht Plant seeds survive machine washing - Dispersal of invasive plants with clothes
11.09.2018 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

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: memory-steel - a new material for the strengthening of buildings

A new building material developed at Empa is about to be launched on the market: "memory-steel" can not only be used to reinforce new, but also existing concrete structures. When the material is heated (one-time), prestressing occurs automatically. The Empa spin-off re-fer AG is now presenting the material with shape memory in a series of lectures.

So far, the steel reinforcements in concrete structures are mostly prestressed hydraulically. This re-quires ducts for guiding the tension cables, anchors for...

Im Focus: Goodbye, silicon? On the way to new electronic materials with metal-organic networks

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.

Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...

Im Focus: Storage & Transport of highly volatile Gases made safer & cheaper by the use of “Kinetic Trapping"

Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles

Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...

Im Focus: Disrupting crystalline order to restore superfluidity

When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.

We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...

Im Focus: Micro energy harvesters for the Internet of Things

Fraunhofer IWS Dresden scientists print electronic layers with polymer ink

Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

Conference to pave the way for new therapies

17.10.2018 | Event News

Berlin5GWeek: Private industrial networks and temporary 5G connectivity islands

16.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Weighing planets and asteroids

23.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Fiber-based quantum communication - Interference of photons using remote sources

23.10.2018 | Information Technology

'Mushrooms' and 'brushes' help cancer-fighting nanoparticles survive in the body

23.10.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>