An Australia-China team of scientists has shown that the fast growing Giant Napier Grass can be used to cleanse contaminants from affected soils and then be converted to ethanol for transport fuel or steam for electricity production – a greenhouse-friendly energy for homes and industry at the same time.
The Australian Cooperative Research Centre model is being used to successfully tackle global problems by pooling scientific expertise and resources.
Australia has an estimated 160,000 contaminated sites, and Asia is thought to have several million, so contaminated by heavy metals from past industrial or mineral processing that the only solution has usually been to fence them off and abandon them. It has been estimated that up to one tenth of the country’s farming land is affected by industrial pollution, which can reach consumers via the food chain.
Biomass harvested from an experimental plantation at Shaoguan University, Guangdong Province, China, is already being used to generate electricity for 100 households – and the team is already working to share the breakthrough internationally, via a new project in Nigeria. Professor Ravi Naidu says:
“There were several stages to the project. First we had to mass produce a newly developed strain of Napier Grass that is fast-growing and has high energy value, which we did using plant tissue culture techniques. This plant grows well on degraded land and produces high yields..
In field research we have been able to show it can be used for phytoremediation, which is the use of plants to extract particular minerals and metals from contaminated soils selectively, using their roots. By continually planting and harvesting these crops, you can lower the level of toxicity in the soil and make the land fit for human uses again, including for housing.”
This technique is equally valuable in China and Australia as it can convert worthless land to high-value real estate – especially in cities, where land is very scarce.
For more info contact Professor Ravi CEO of CRC CARE – telephone 08-8302 5041, mobile 0407 720 257