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Desmid Green Algae will help in Nuclear Clean-Up

April 7th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Environment, Algae-Strains

The recent tsunami and the nuclear after effects have crumbled the whole of Japan.  The fear of nuclear radiation and nuclear spillage struck the whole country and even to the neighbouring Asiatic regions.  The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration were spreading news during the last week of March that very low levels of radiation have turned up in a sample of milk from Washington and claimed that Japanese nuclear disaster was the reason.  The fear of radioactive substances getting absorbed in food, especially milk and meat is a genuine fear.

Nuclear clean up is gaining serious attention following the Japanese incident. The bacterium E. coli has been extensively studied for use in recovering uranium from polluted waters. (Click here to know about the research on E. coli usage).  But the problem with food items especially milk and animal tissues is not uranium but it is more of Strontium-90 and Iodine-131. Especially, strontium 90 brings in more danger as it is chemically similar to calcium, and so can be taken up into milk, bones, and other tissues.

Scientists have recently identified that a type of algae could help solving this problem by precipitate strontium into crystals. The desmid green algae, called Closterium moniliferum was found to accumulate strontium in its sulfate-rich vacuoles, and since strontium has a low solubility in sulfate, they precipitate out as crystals. The new breakthrough could hopefully lead to better nuclear clean-up techniques, potentially sequestering radioactive strontium-90 into crystalline form, which is easier to contain. Though calcium is structurally similar to strontium, it doesn’t get precipitated by the algae’s sulphur rich environment like strontium or barium. This makes C. Moniliferum more attractive for nuclear spillage clean up from milk and other food items.

Recent research is focussed on identifying ways to increase sulphate levels in the environment, which may in turn increase the ability of the algae to crystallize strontium.

More info about the research work

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