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Chementator: Converting trees into biodegredation plants

By Chemical Engineering |

Large tracts of land that have been used for military training, especially in the U.S., are contaminated with RDX— a widely used explosive that is both toxic and carcinogenic. Although bacteria have been isolated that can biodegrade the RDX, the degredation rates are too slow, allowing the RDX to leatch into groundwater. To solve the problem, researchers at the University of York’s (U.K.) Center for Novel Agricultural Products (edlinks.chemengonline.com/5826-547) have developed a way to “redeploy” the active enzyme from the bacteria into plants. As a result, a tree, for example, acts like a pump, seeking out the contaminated water, and allowing the enzime to degrade the explosives, says professor Neil Bruce, the project leader. So far, the scientists have used the model plant system Arabidopsis thaliana. Next, the group, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Washington (Seattle), plans to extend the technique to trees (such as aspen and poplar) and perennial grasses. The method is also expected to be able to modify plants to resist other organic pollutants.   Click here for a full pdf version of the Chementator Section
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