This innovation combines removal of contaminants from soil by root uptake and concentrates the contaminants in plant biomass. Conventional phytoextraction requires that plants be harvested, which presents the problem of disposal of the contaminated biomass. Use of chemical sequestration does not require killing the plants so they can continue to extract more contaminants.
"This (process) is accomplished by laying a chemically reactive mat on top of the ground and around each plant, usually a tree or a shrub, which catches any fallen leaves and twigs," said Adriano. "This allows them to rot, releasing the contaminants in a soluble form, but captured and fixed permanently by the reactive mat."
The mats can be engineered to retain the contaminants until the clean-up goal has been reached, and the mats can be collected for safe disposal.
The invention was initially conceived at the Universitat fur Bodenkultur in Vienna, Austria, during Adriano's sabbatical with Wenzel. The work was funded by the city of Vienna.