Plants that can detox waste lands will put poisons to good use

March 4, 2013

Common garden plants are to be used to clean polluted land, with the extracted poisons being used to produce car parts and aid medical research.

Scientists will use plants such as alyssum, pteridaceae and a type of mustard called sinapi to soak up metals from land previously occupied by factories, mines and landfill sites.

Dangerous levels of metals such as arsenic and platinum, which can lurk in the ground and can cause harm to people and animals, will be extracted using a natural process known as phytoremediation.

Once the plants have drawn contaminated material out of the soil, researchers will harvest and then process the plants into materials that can be used more productively.

The conversion process will take place in a , which will use specifically engineered bacteria to transform the toxic metal ions into more useful metallic .

These will be used to make for motor vehicles. They will also be used to help develop cancer treatments.

Cleaning polluted land and rivers could also allow land to be reclaimed and reused, the researchers say.

The project involves scientists from the University of Edinburgh, the Universities of Warwick and Birmingham, Newcastle University and Cranfield University.

Dr Louise Horsfall of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, said: "Land is a finite resource. As the world's population grows along with the associated demand for food and shelter, we believe that it is worth decontaminating land to unlock vast areas for better food security and housing. I hope to use synthetic biology to enable bacteria to produce high value nanoparticles and thereby help make land decontamination financially viable."

Explore further: Biosensors to probe the metals menace

Related Stories

Biosensors to probe the metals menace

August 28, 2007

If the pond life goes star-shaped, you'd be wise not to drink the water. Researchers from CRC CARE are pioneering a world-first technology to warn people if their local water or air is contaminated with dangerous levels of ...

Ancestors of land plants revealed

April 18, 2011

It was previously thought that land plants evolved from stonewort-like algae. However, new research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology shows that the closest relatives to land plants ...

Recommended for you

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Study shows female frogs susceptible to 'decoy effect'

August 28, 2015

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers has found that female túngaras, frogs that live in parts of Mexico and Central and South America, appear to be susceptible to the "decoy effect." In their paper published in the journal ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.