The plants were modified to express a mammalian protein, called 2E1, which allows them to transfer the harmful compounds to compounds that can support the growth of plants.
The interior of our homes may contain small molecules such as chloroform or benzene, a component of gasoline, through simple actions such as bathing, boiling water, or storing cars in lawn mowers in attached garages. Interesting engineering reported.
Very small toxic molecules for HEPA
These compounds tend to be too small to be captured by HEPA air filters, but prolonged exposure to them has been associated with cancer.
"People really have not talked about these dangerous organic compounds in homes, and I think this is because we could not do anything about them," said Stuart Strand, Ph.D., senior study investigator. said. He is a research professor in the civil and environmental engineering department at UW.
"Now, we design indoor plants to remove these pollutants for us."
Scientists were inspired by nature by focusing on a protein called cytochrome P450 2E1, or 2E1, abbreviated. 2E1 is present in all mammals, including humans.
In our bodies, 2E1 turns benzene into a chemical called phenol and chloroform into carbon dioxide and chloride ions.
Unfortunately, the protein is located in our liver and is not available to process air pollution.
"We decided that we should have this reaction out of the body in a plant, an example of the concept of green liver," explained Strand.
"And 2E1 can also be beneficial to the plant. Plants use carbon dioxide and chloride ions to make their food, and use phenol to help build components of their cell walls. "
The researchers developed a synthetic version of the gene and, through slow and complicated measures, eventually introduced it into pothos ivy, so that each cell of the plant expressed the protein.
The researchers then tested their new genetically modified plants. They took an unmodified plant and a modified plant and placed it in glass tubes which were then filled with benzene or chloroform gas.
Plants massively lowered pollutant levels
The concentration of each pollutant in each tube was screened within 11 days.
The levels did not change at all for the unmodified plants and, however, for the modified plants, the chloroform concentration fell 82% after three days.
On the sixth day, chloroform was almost undetectable. The benzene level also decreased in modified plant bottles, but at a slower rate, it took eight days for levels to decrease by 75%.
The team believes that the factories will operate inside homes, but that the house would need a good airflow or a fan directed to the factory for maximum efficiency.
Researchers are now working on modifications developed for ordinary household formaldehyde, which is present in glues, wood smoke and furniture.