(July 30, 2012) -- After three years of research, scholars at The University of Texas at San Antonio have created a process for injecting plants with polymers to develop a synthetic root system that stabilizes soil.
Once optimized, the composite material can be applied to structures and roadways, where soil stability is critical, and to dams, levees, embankments, landfills and other soil structures that are prone to landslides and erosion.
"The roots of plants and trees help keep soil in place," said Drew Johnson, associate professor in the UTSA Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "However, plants are prone to diseases, drought, ageing and animal grazing, and when the plants die, their root systems weaken. This leaves the soil less stable and prone erosion or shifting. We thought that if we could fill the roots with a plastic that has a low biodegradability factor, we would get the benefits of the root system even after the plant dies."
Funded by a $354,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Johnson, with help from Mark Appleford, UTSA assistant professor of biomedical engineering; Valerie Sponsel, UTSA professor of biology; and UTSA graduate student Karl Eisenacher, developed the composite material and tested it on the roots of Artemisia annual (Sweet Annie), a hardy plant that grows rapidly and has a dense root structure. The plant also has a single stem, making it ideal for polymer injections.
A series of tests comparing natural Sweet Annie roots to the same roots injected with the polymer suggest that the infusion of the polymer increased the root strength.
When the NSF reviewed the team's 2009 proposal, one reviewer noted, "This research is a beginning, in its infancy, high-risk, highly innovative, but with tremendous future potential."
The scholars now are seeking to optimize the process so the polymer permeates the outer parts of a root system, once it is injected.
>> Their article, "Strength Enhancement of Plant Roots through Polymer Infusions," was published recently in the Journal of Composite Materials.
The Spring Research Conference offers graduate and undergraduate students pursuing majors in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts the opportunity to present their original work in a forum of interested and critically engaged minds that is at the same time welcoming and inclusive.
Various locations, Main Campus
Mimi Marziani, executive director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, will speak about civil rights advocacy, political campaigns, election law and nonprofit management.
SAWS Headquarters, 2800 U.S. Highway 281 North, San Antonio
Join the Center for Military Families for a panel on Politics in the Service of Military Families, featuring Cedric Leighton, David Splitter, Steve Huerta, and the Office of Congressman Henry Cuellar. The event is free and open to the public.
Buena Vista Street Building, Aula Canaria Lecture Hall (BVB 1.328), Downtown Campus
UTSA Dance classes will take the stage and share their talents and passion for dance! Come support our growing dance program! $10 admission
Buena Vista Street Building Theater (BVB 1.326), Downtown Campus
This panel presentation will look at the history of the YWCA and the impact the organization has had on women in the San Antonio community.
McKinney Humanities Building (MH 2.02.10), Main Campus
The Demography Lecture Series continues with Dr. Barbara Bird of American University. Her topic focuses on Insights Into a Hard to Find Population: Latino Entrepreneurs in Metro Washington, D.C. Event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the pay stall spaces of the Monterrey surface lot.
Monterrey Building (MNT 3.240), Downtown Campus
This video tells the story of four Latina lesbians who fought for exoneration after being wrongfully convicted of sexually assaulting two girls during the Satanic Panic witch-hunt era of the 1980s and 1990s.
North Paseo Building (NPB 1.114), Main Campus
Tejana/Indígena author Ire'ne Lara Ailva will read from her latest work and discuss her approach to reimagining Tejan@ myths.
Main Building (MB 2.404), Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.