Sometimes taking a hike in nature can be the inspiration needed to construct a major discovery that advances recycling and bio-energy…almost quite literally. If you’ve ever taken a walk along some of the ponds and waterways along with our coastal systems or visited the Lithia Park ponds, no doubt you’ve come across water plants that resemble lily pads. It is plants just like those that led scientists to make some major discoveries recently.
One such plant is specifically called, “spirodela polyrhiza.” It may be easier to remember its common name, “great duckweed.” The great duckweed is a floating aquatic plant with the smooth texture of a succulent. It floats because of pockets of air within the structure of the plant. These small plants grow at an incredible speed with the ability to double in mass every 24 hours.
In 2011, Pacific Domes of Ashland announced plans to create large biodomes that would include ponds of giant duckweed to be grown, harvested, and then used to create methane. The methane is then further transformed into biofuel that can be used in on-site generators. This works well because the plants grow quickly making harvesting completely sustainable; plus the plants serve as food for fish that also grow and thrive in the ponds. One such biodome was installed in the Navajo Indian Reservation in Naatani, Arizona and helps to feed and supply energy to its residents.
Just this month, further discoveries have been made overseas.
A team of Chinese and Rutgers University Scientists took a further look into the DNA sequencing structure of these same plants. What they found is that giant duckweed and other similar strains of the plant have incredible immune systems. They are able to protect themselves against harmful microbes and pests including waterborne fungi and bacteria.
The incredible ability of these little plants to stay healthy even in poor environments provides scientists with information and tools to transform other industries. For example, the results of these studies may lead to using duckweed plants for bioreactors that can recycle wastes. Duckweed could be used to make sensitive products such as pharmaceutical drugs that require intense chemical precision.
So next time you’re out on a walk by a pond and see those little lily pads, remember that you’re looking at a life form that could greatly enhance our ability to create a clean and sustainable environment for generations to come!
Would you like to learn more about biodiesel and other alternative energy solutions?
Visit us at the Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition today! The Coalition works to enhance the livability and sustainability of Rogue Valley residents.