Formerly an economics and humanities student at UCLA, Oe Kaori is now an intern for the United Nations.
The Research That Could Help Us Breathe Better
What can the world do about air pollution? Increasing air pollution is a pressing global issue and you could be part of the solution. In a joint project with Clean Air Asia and Erasmus, Eindhoven University of Technology is leading the world in developing and testing technologies that help tackle pollution.Together with a Dutch research group, the university is testing a new method of using bacteria to clean up air pollution.
The so-called 'bioremediation' process was invented by Eindhoven University of Technology professor of chemical and biochemical engineering Mark Lenard. Eindhoven University of Technology professor Mark Lenard. Credit: Edwin de Jong "The bacteria are capable of degrading some of the most toxic substances found in the environment – including organic pollutants, heavy metals and even nuclear waste," says Lenard.
The bacteria are able to penetrate deeply into air-dwelling pollutants and help break them down. To ensure that these bacteria are not killed in the process, the researchers use a very basic organic solvent, dithiothreitol (DTT). Lenard says: "To protect the bacteria from UV radiation, they are kept in an extremely low-oxygen environment. The bacteria are also directly fed into the bioreactor."
"So far, we have successfully developed and tested the method for removing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), used in air-pollution emissions, from air."
Based on this success, the researchers are now working on developing the method for removing toxic gases. To do this, they are conducting further tests using catalytic materials. These materials are able to accelerate the rate at which the bacteria are consumed by chemicals.
This means that they produce fewer byproducts than do non-catalytic materials, which means that their toxicity is significantly reduced. Explore further: Bio-inspired coating for reactive gases and pollutants.
Is This Solution Viable?
It's only a single facet of cleaning up the air we breathe. Other likely disasters to occur such as oil spills, forest fires, and chemical spills endanger our environment. What are the solutions for those types of catastrophes? There's not much of a clear cut answer since this is a global issues. Obstacles such as political views, monetary issues, and the lack of responsibility from nations puts everyone at risks. We shouldn't put the burden on scientist alone to fix this problem. It really shouldn't be a political issue in the first place. Protecting the air, water, and land we all live on should be a linear issue.
This goes beyond recycling plastics, using green cars, or purchasing reusable products. Nonetheless, I do look forward to some sort of solution in the future to save our air.
It's promising, however we live on this planet and still have to do our part to clean up our act. It's a cliche saying but we are headed for disaster if we can't solve our pollution crisis.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Oe Kaori