We would like to keep air in our homes as clean as possible, and sometimes we use HEPA air filters to exploit allergies and dust particles.
But some dangerous compounds are very small to deal with these filters. Small molecules such as chloroform, in chlorinated water or benzene, are small amounts of gasoline, we build homes in water or when we boil water or store cars or beer stores in the garage. The exposure of both benzene and chloroform has been linked to cancer.
Nowadays, researchers from the University of Washington change a genetically modified house-house to remove choloroform and benzene from pothos ivy. Modified plants express a protein called 2E1, which transforms these compounds into molecules to protect plants from their own growth. The group will publish the findings on Wednesday, November 19th Environmental Science and Technology.
"People are not really talking about these dangerous organic compounds, and I think we can not do that," said Stuart Strand, senior author, a research professor at the UW Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering departments. "We have now designed home-based factories to eliminate these pollutants."
The group used a protein called Cytochrome P450 2E1, or 2E1 short, in all mammals, including humans. In our body, 2E1 becomes benzene as chemokine called phenol and chloroform, as a carbon dioxide and chloride ion. But 2E1 is on our back and is activated when we drink alcohol. Therefore, it is not available for the processing of pollutants in our air.
"We decided that this reaction should be outside the body of the plant, an example of the concept of green liver," said Strand. "And 2E1 plants can also be beneficial. Plants use carbon dioxides and chloride ions to make their own food and use phenols to get additional wall walls."
Researchers have done a synthetic version of the genes that serve as guidelines for the form 2E1 rabbit. Then they inserted pothos ivy, so each plant's cell expressed protein. Pothos ivy does not bloom in a warm climate, so genetically modified plants can not spread through pollen.
"This process lasted for more than two years," said Long Zhang, the chief author of scientific research in civil engineering and environmental engineering. "It's a long time compared to other laboratories, it would only be a few months. But we wanted to do it in pothos, because it is a medicinal home that grows in all kinds of conditions."
The researchers demonstrated how their plant changes the air pollutants in the air to get rid of ivy pothos usually. Two types of plants have been placed in the glass tubes, followed by adding benzene or chloroform in each tube. For more than 11 days, the team controlled how each concentration of each pollutant was changed in each tube.
For non-modified plants, gas concentration has not changed over time. But for plant varieties, the chloroform concentration dropped 82 percent within three days, and it is almost impossible six days a day. Benzene concentration also changed in the planted paths, but slowly: At eight o'clock the concentration of benzene fell by 75%.
In order to detect changes in the level of pollutants, the researchers use concentrations of pollutants that are found in houses much higher. However, the group expects that the startup levels would be reduced in the same way, if not faster, in the same time frame.
Homemade plants should also be in an environment to move their leaves with the air of the past, like a fan, Strand said.
"If one plant growing in the corner of a room it will affect that room," he said. "But without the flow of air, at the other end of the house it will take a molecule to reach the plant."
He is currently working on increasing plant capabilities by adding a protein that can break up in a hazardous molecule found in the home air: formaldehyde, the presence of some wood products, such as laminate floors and cabinets and tobacco smoke.
"These are all stable compounds, so it's very difficult to get rid of them," said Strand. "Without these protein molecules, we need to use high energy processes, so it's easier and more durable to put all these proteins into a home."
He is also a civil engineer and environmental engineering technician, Ryan Routsong. This research was financed by the National Science Foundation, Amazon Catalyst, UW and the National Environmental Science Institute.