A wide variety of plants are known to uptake soil metals through their roots,and it has been proposed that this could be exploited to remove metals fromcontaminated soils ("metal phytoremediation"). Unfortunately most soil metalsexist in a chemical form unavailable to plants. It has recently been discoveredthat when certain chemicals (metal chelators) are added to soil, thebioavailable fraction of metal increases dramatically. Under these conditions, standard crops such as corn and pea uptake large amounts of metal. Plant metal loads can exceed 2% by weight, and the contaminated tissue can then beharvested and incinerated. Before this technology can be applied in the fieldit is necessary to address a major technical problem, namely that by mobilisingsoil metals the chelator also increases the possibility that the metals migrateaway from the contaminated site and into surrounding non contaminated soils andgroundwater. The main objective of the research phase of this project is todesign a suitable containment system that would allow safe application of metalchelators. The possibility of incorporating a recovery step to allow recycling of the plant bound metal will also be addressed. If successful, this metalphytoremediation process could represent a low cost, low technology solution toa significant environmental problem present throughout the European Community.
Funding SchemeEAW - Exploratory awards