Airtight box and plant experiment ends in blinding headaches

Sep 19, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- Iain Stewart, a professor of geoscience at Plymouth University, spent the weekend carrying out an experiment in Cornwall at the Eden Project. Stewart was locked in an airtight chamber for 48 hours with nothing but plants to provide his oxygen. The experiment was filmed for a BBC series, How Plants Made the World.

The idea of this experiment, according to Stewart, was to see if could really keep a person alive and stress the importance of photosynthesis, or the process of plants taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen by using light.

The chamber that Stewart spent the weekend in was eight meters long, two meters wide and 2.5 meters tall and filled with 30 large plants and 120 small ones. Some of the plants included banana trees, miscanthus, maize and a variety of tropical herbs.

The chamber was fitted both inside and out with a special lighting system to ensure that the plants received adequate energy for photosynthesis and the temperature and humidity levels were kept at the optimal range for the plants and not for Stewart.

Inside the chamber, Stewart had a hammock to sleep in, an exercise bike and a laptop. The was placed inside in case the carbon dioxide levels dropped too low for . If this were to happen, Stewart would be required to exercise.

The experiment concluded on Saturday night and the oxygen levels remained high enough for Stewart to remain in the chamber for the full 48 hours, however, the oxygen levels dropped from 21 percent to between 10 and 12 percent. This level is similar to the atmosphere found at high elevations and is what causes altitude sickness.

Specialists from the University College London’s Centre for Altitude Space and Extreme Environment Medicine and the Royal Free Hospital were there to monitor Stewart for the duration of the experiment and also put him through various tests to look at the effects of the low oxygen levels.

While Stewart did manage to stay in the chamber for the entire 48 hours, the reduced contributed to blinding headaches which he is recovering from.

Explore further: Best of Last Week – quantum pigeonholing, a hoverbike drone project and the sun goes quiet

Related Stories

Sociologist: Stepfamilies hard to define

Dec 11, 2006

The changing face of the U.S. family is nothing like the Cleavers or the Andersons of television lore, an Iowa State University sociologist said.

Oxygen levels in the air do not limit plant productivity

Feb 17, 2011

There have been concerns that present oxygen levels may limit plant productivity. Swedish researchers at Umea University show that this is not the case in a new study published in the journal The Proceedings of the National Ac ...

Machine Converts CO2 into Gasoline, Diesel, and Jet Fuel

Nov 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have built a machine that uses the sun's energy to convert carbon dioxide waste from power plants into transportation fuels such as gasoline, diesel, ...

Facebook fugitive caught after 105 days

May 27, 2009

The long arm of the law finally caught up with a New Zealand fugitive whose 105 days on the run inspired a Facebook fansite, a song and a line of tee shirts.

Recommended for you

How to win a Tour de France sprint

Jul 22, 2014

The final dash to the line in a Tour de France sprint finish may appear to the bystander to be a mess of bodies trying to cram into the width of a road, but there is a high degree of strategy involved. It ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Husky
3.5 / 5 (6) Sep 19, 2011
so, he would need probably double, 60 large and 240 small plant, for a more sustainable existence, multiply this with 6 billion and we have rougly the amount of plant we need to serve as lungs of the world (oxygen footprint?) and how much biomass we can afford to loose through deforestation and loss of photosynthetic algae in the oceans etc...
JRDarby
4.6 / 5 (5) Sep 19, 2011
smultiply this with 6 billion and we have rougly the amount of plant we need to serve as lungs of the world


Don't forget the other 8,7 million species on Earth and their relative oxygen/CO2/H2SO4/etc requirements.
NotAsleep
4.6 / 5 (5) Sep 19, 2011
Don't forget that about 70% of the free oxygen produced on earth is made by organisms in the ocean
gwrede
4.7 / 5 (3) Sep 19, 2011
Don't forget cars, coal plants, open-fire cooking for billions, or forest fires.
TopherTO
5 / 5 (11) Sep 19, 2011
Don't forget...nevermind I forgot.
mjc
not rated yet Sep 20, 2011
topher....thanks for my morning chuckle
GreyLensman
not rated yet Sep 20, 2011
Biosphere lite? Proved nothing, just an expensive stunt, while real science is underfunded.
Isaacsname
1 / 5 (1) Sep 20, 2011
Lool. What did he expect..? Plants kick out a lot more than O2..