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 ")

Is There Extraterrestrial Life Here In The Solar System
'How fast is it moving? ...one meter per minute.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1982.

Chinese Fern Helps Remediate Arsenic Soil
'Bioengeering had put out a spec report on the long crawly things five months back.' - Gregory Benford, 1983.

New Lifelike Material Powered By Artificial Metabolism
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

DNA May Contain Malware
'You were told to embed the logical pathogen.' - A. Reynolds and S. Baxter, 2016.

 

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

Is There Extraterrestrial Life Here In The Solar System
'How fast is it moving? ...one meter per minute.'

Can We Comprehend Deep Learning Systems?
'Youíve nothing remotely like it, so I canít describe it to you.'

Skin Electronics Can Show Electrocardiogram
'... the young men in the streets who applied polyimde OLED body film to their bared shoulders.'

Chinese Fern Helps Remediate Arsenic Soil
'Bioengeering had put out a spec report on the long crawly things five months back.'

Skai Air Taxi Costs The Same As Uber
'The air-taxi found its way past and around other ground-cars...'

Neurodevices For Consumers? Neuroethicists (And Philip K Dick) Say 'Caveat Emptor'
'They tried to use it today and it wouldn't work. No colors and no ceph patterns, neither one...'

NASA 3D Printed Habitat Challenge Won By AI SpaceFactory
3D printing - on Mars!

The Future Of Elon Musk's Neuralink
'Cerebral Electromagnetic Emmission Amplification and Relay System ó call it artificial telepathy, if you like.'

Researchers Make You Say Anything in Videos
'[It] caused his televised image... to mouth the vowels and consonants beautifully.'

Jeff Bezos Tries Waldoes (Robotic Hands)
'Waldo put his arms into the primary pair before him...'

Asimov and Musk - Boring Company Tunnel vs. Street Race
'There was almost no sound, just a steady velvety whirr as the taxi sped along.'

Project Dylan - Amazon's Voice-Activated Wearable That Recognizes Human Emotions
Life imitates anime art.

Tesla Diagnoses Itself, Sends Part Request
'Tentacles emerged from the side of the machine and felt puzzledly at the damaged area.'

Lilium Electric Air Taxi Prototype
'The air-taxi found its way past and around other ground-cars...'

Swedes Premiere T-Pod Driverless Electric Truck
'the trucks gulped packages and scurried like beetles...'

HEL TVD Laser System To Be Built By Dynetics Lockheed Martin
'Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping from one to another, sprang from the scattered group of men.'

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.