Science Continues to Solve Life's Problems
Algae Could Be Key to Cleaning Up Nuclear Accident Sites
Algae can secrete biofuels and pump out biologic drugs, and now researchers think it could help clean up radioactive accidents like the one unfolding at Japan's Fukushima nuclear facility.
A Northwestern University researcher has identified a certain kind of common algae, known as Closterium moniliferum, that has a unique penchant for sequestering strontium into crystals, a trick that could help remove the dangerous radioactive isotope strontium-90 from the environment.
Strontium-90 is particularly hazardous because of its similarity to calcium. Because the two atoms share similar atomic properties, radioactive strontium can end up getting into the same places calcium can, like milk, bones, bone marrow, and blood. But strontium-90 isn't a dominant element in reactor waste -- there is usually billions of times more harmless calcium than strontium in a nuclear spill -- so being able to separate the two is critical for quick and efficient cleanup.
That's where C. moniliferum comes in.
I find this article to be wonderfully interesting. The possibilities and advantages of using an algae is pretty incredible and wonderful at the same time.