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 ")

Oil from Algae - Can It Be Done?
'We dump everything that's waste into the tanks, pump the oil off the top.' - Hal Clement, 1950.

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.

 

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

SWEEPER Robot Peter Piper Picking Peppers
'... little machines, that went from plant to plant, apparently on caterpillar tracks, cutting off the ripe fruit.'

Oil from Algae - Can It Be Done?
'We dump everything that's waste into the tanks, pump the oil off the top.'

Moving Whole Planets, Revisited
There was a lot of work done on this idea over the years.

Disney Keeps Backups Of Star Wars Franchise Actors
'She is a personality-construct, a congeries of software agents...'

Farming In Space Starts With Mycorrhiza
'The inner leaves were beginning to curl faster than the outer leaves.'

Jaguar I-Pace Audible Vehicle Alert System For EVs
'Of course not a vehicle moved by means of internal explosions of a derivative of rock oil...'

Autonomous 'Fiberbots' Weave Large Structures
'It extrudes material like a spider.'

Birds Aren't Real - Wake Up, California! (With Bird Watching Guide)
'When he had first built them, they had been crude indeed, flying mechanisms with little more than a reflex-response unit.'

Self-Healing Material Pulls Carbon Out Of The Air
'... could seal the punctures.'

IRL Glasses Block Screens, Limit Vision To Real Life
'If you couldn't see the ads, how would you know what was fashionable?'

Testing The Single-Person Spacecraft
'...the lower part of the suit was simply a rigid cylinder.'

Shapeshifting Materials Transform By Light
'Its lines wavered, flowed, and then painfully reformed.'

Fully Automated Farm Iron Ox Hydroponics
'Had these machines in some incredible fashion been provided with brains?'

BrainNet Social Network Of Brains
'I used my implant to tell MILLIE what we wanted and she took care of it'

Phil Nuyttnn's City Under The Sea
'Under the lower roof there was no water, but a clear and luminous atmosphere...'

IONITY Opens First 10 Fast-Charging Stations
'Recharge the batteries... in almost every town and village...'

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.