Tumblin' Tumbleweeds Lend Hand In Depleted Uranium Roundup

An early study indicates that the humble tumbleweed (the Russian thistle) may be able to help humans round up depleted uranium (DU) from contaminated soil - both at weapon testing grounds and on battlefields.


(Tumbleweeds lined up and ready)

In the study, various plants were tested for their ability to pick up DU from soil in semi-arid climates. Some plants that did well (like Indian mustard) also required a significant effort for cultivation. Tumbleweeds do not require cultivation, use very little water, and spread themselves by detaching from roots and then tumbling along in the wind to a new location.

The goals of the study:

  • to characterize the site
  • to determine DU mobility in arid environments
  • to compare the DU bio-accumulation potential of selected non-native and native arid plant species
  • to determine if the plantís biomass and ability to uptake DU make it a viable economic remediation technique
  • to test a variety of soil and plant amendments and to determine their impact on the plantís ability to accumulate DU
In looking for plants to help, researchers are following in the footsteps of old-fashioned uranium prospectors, who would use Geiger counters on junipers to find uranium deposits.

Depleted uranium is uranium which contains reduced quantities of the fissile isotope U-235 and the radioactive isotope U-234. Depleted uranium is not completely free of radioactive isotopes; it must still be handled carefully. As a heavy metal (like lead) it is toxic; studies suggest that inhaling dust from DU-based weapons can be harmful.

The military makes use of DU because its high density (70% more dense than lead) makes it an excellent choice for an anti-tank weapon. It is also pyrophoric; the heat build-up caused by penetration of metal armor causes the depleted uranium to disintegrate and combust when it reaches air (in the interior of an enemy tank or other vehicle). The Department of Energy has an inventory of almost half a million tons of depleted uranium as a result of efforts to create enriched uranium (depleted uranium is a waste product).

In his 1983 novel Against Infinity, science fiction author Gregory Benford wrote about bioengineered organisms called "scooters" that were designed to roam the surface of Ganymede (one of the moons of Jupiter) and find ammonia-based compounds and digest them into usable oxygen compounds.

For more info, take a look at Phytoremediation of Depleted Uranium in an Arid environment and Tumbleweeds Good For Uranium Clean-Up

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/10/2004)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.

Should You Submit Your DNA To A Database?
Consumer DNA services are often inaccurate.

Humans Evolve Deep Diving Abilities
Sounds like '60s sci-fi to me.

Researchers Create Bowls, Coils, Ripples Of Living Tissue
'... biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."

Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'

DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'

Ancient Russian Walking Excavator Would Be Perfect RV
I don't need it to go fast, it just needs to amble along.

ELROI Satellite 'License Plate'
Robert Heinlein was thinking about this in 1941.

When Robots Beg For Their Lives
"Just what do you think you're doing... Dave.'

Do You Still Want A Folding Screen Phone?
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled...'

'Snapchat Dysmorphia' Now A Thing, Say Plastic Surgeons
'The program raced up the screen one scan line at a time, subtly smoothing, deleting and coloring.'

Quiet Electric Cars Law Finalized By US Transportation Department
'... a sound tape to supply the noise'

Drone Assassin Fails To Kill Venezuelan President
'The spotter descends, and we think it searches the vicinity, looking for the victim's face...'

Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.

Bezos Invites You To New Life In Off-World Colonies
'A new life awaits you!'

Amazon's Rekognition System Sees Criminals In Congress
'... the imprint of her image on the telephoto cell.'

Build Your Own Space Suit For Cheap
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'

CIMON Space Sidekick For Weary Astronauts
I welcome our floating robotic assistants.

SRI MicroFactory Of Microrobots Recalls Dick's Autofac
'Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants... constructing something...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.